Oct 20, 2019

Global pork prices soar as swine fever infects herds in eastern Asia

South Korean quarantine officials block people from entering an infected area. Photo: Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images

African swine fever, a deadly pig disease, is killing hundreds of millions of hogs in eastern Asian countries, causing a global surge in pork and bacon prices, according to Bloomberg.

Why it matters: African swine fever is not known to infect or harm humans, but it can kill most pigs in a week and has the potential to disrupt pork markets and threaten food-insecure countries.

By the numbers: Prices for swine carcasses have soared 31% and piglets 56% in the past year in Europe, according to Bloomberg. And analysts believe prices will remain high as China, Vietnam and other countries celebrate the Lunar New Year on Jan. 25, a peak time for pork consumption.

China: The fever has had a greater impact on China than on any other country, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture now considers it an epidemic.

  • The USDA estimates that Chinese swine herds will decrease to 275 million pigs by the end of 2020, down almost 40% since 2018.

North Korea: North Korea reported only a single outbreak that killed 22 pigs in May, according to Bloomberg. But South Korea has found dead feral pigs that have tested positive for the disease in or near the South Korean-North Korean border.

  • South Korean officials believe the fever has spread to almost all areas of North Korea as it faces reduced crop production due to below-average rains and a lack of irrigation infrastructure, according to the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization.
  • The FAO estimates that 40% of North Korea's population is food insecure and in urgent need of food assistance. A former North Korean official who fled the country told Bloomberg that pork accounts for about 80% of North Korea’s protein consumption.

South Korea: South Korea announced on Sept. 17 its first case of the disease in a city near its border with North Korea. Since the first case, South Korean soldiers stationed near the border were ordered to capture or shoot wild boars crossing the border to prevent the disease from spreading.

  • As of Oct. 7, at least 145,000 pigs had been culled since the first case was announced, according to WSJ. South Korea’s Ministry of Unification said Pyongyang has ignored offers from Seoul to help fight the disease.
  • Analysts believe that South Korean pork prices will fall as farmers preemptively kill unaffected livestock to stop the spread.

The big picture: U.S. farmers have an opportunity to cash in on the outbreak in China, but only if the two countries can reach a trade agreement. President Trump has claimed that China has promised to buy $40 billion–$50 billion worth of U.S. agricultural goods, but Beijing has not endorsed the transaction.

Go deeper: Trump's promises on "phase 1" trade deal with China fall flat

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5:30 p.m. ET: 5,375,648 — Total deaths: 343,721 — Total recoveries — 2,149,412Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 5:30 p.m. ET: 1,639,872 — Total deaths: 97,599 — Total recoveries: 361,239 — Total tested: 13,784,786Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

White House announces new coronavirus travel restrictions on Brazil

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro with Trump, March 19, 2019. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool via Getty Images

The White House announced that beginning at 11:59 pm ET on Thursday, President Trump would suspend entry of non-U.S. citizens who have been in Brazil in the past 14 days in an effort to stop the imported spread of the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Brazil has reported nearly 350,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus — the second-most in the world behind the U.S. — and has emerged as a Southern Hemisphere hotspot as other heavily affected countries in Asia and Europe have managed to get their outbreaks under control.

Trumpworld's plan to brand Biden

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Mandel Ngan/AFP

Trump's advisers relish the contrast between his public appearances and Joe Biden's lack thereof. The former vice president, following the guidance of public experts, has eschewed public events and stayed home for months now. Trump, meanwhile, is out and about — masks be damned.

What we're hearing: Watch for plenty more mask-free outings from Trump, hyping the reopening of the economy and avoiding discussions of social distancing and death counts.