New Zealand and Australian pork producers are on high alert after African Swine Fever (ASF) drew closer to home with an outbreak reported in Timor-Leste.
Timor-Leste, 650km to the north of Australia, is the 10th Asian country report an outbreak of the disease.
NZ Pork general manager David Baines, who this week attended the Australasian Pig Science Association convention in Adelaide, said the arrival of ASF near Australian borders had heightened concern for pork producers on both sides of the Tasman.
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NZ Pork has warned that New Zealand's pork industry would be decimated if it hit the country.
China, which reported the first case of ASF a year ago, has culled more than 131 million pigs, or around 40 per cent of its herd.
"Talking to our friends at (industry group) Australian Pork Ltd there is a high level of concern over ASF and they are undertaking significant lobbying to all levels of government to raise awareness and to seek higher levels of biosecurity," Baines told the Herald.
The concern in Australia was the ease with which the disease could hit there - particularly in the north.
"In northern Australia, there is a high density of wild pigs, and that's seen as the most likely vector through which the disease could arrive," he said.
"Like us, they are hoping that it does not arrive but they are looking at it realistically," he said.
"No one has been able to successfully keep it out and to arrest the march of it around the world."
Australia pork prices have risen due to the onset of ASF in various pork producing countries.
At the Australian farm gate, prices have risen by about A$1 to $3.50/kg while the New Zealand farmgate price has risen by 40c/kg.
Baines said prices at the New Zealand retail level had risen to a greater extent than local farmgate prices because of the high proportion of imported product.
New Zealand imports about 60 per cent of its pork.
Baines said the Christmas ham prices could lift a little compared with this time last year, as a result of ASF.
"After Christmas, I would expect to see the availability product for processing will lift to a high level."
Baines said NZ Pork was "doing everything we can" to work with the government.
"The whole pathway of illegally imported product - whether it is through personal consignments or undeclared product - is a huge risk to the pig industry."
ASF is not an airborne disease and it does not affect humans. It is spread though contact with an infected animals.
NZ Pork said there are around 100 commercial pig farms in New Zealand but estimated that pigs are kept on at least 5500 properties outside the commercial industry.
Rural lending specialist Rabobank said New Zealand red meat producers were set to benefit as ASF "overwhelms" global animal protein outlook.
"With ASF set to restrict global growth in animal proteins, New Zealand red meat producers can look forward to continued strong pricing for their beef and sheepmeat exports in the coming year," the bank said in its Global Animal Protein Outlook for 2020.
Rabobank said China's production losses resulting from ASF exceeded the growth in all other regions combined.
Chinese pork production is expected to decline by a further 10 to 15 per cent from 2019 levels and, while less than the decline in 2019, the report says it will ensure 2020 production is well below the 2014-18 average, prior to the major ASF outbreak.
Rabobank animal proteins analyst Blake Holgate said the pork supply gap created by ASF had been a key factor in the surge of New Zealand beef exports into China during 2019, and this trend was set to extend into 2020.
"Another significant jump in Chinese demand for New Zealand beef products forecast over the next 12 months, further cementing China's recently-acquired position as our largest export market for beef products.
"And, with this growth continuing to put upward pressure on export returns, we expect to see farmgate pricing at levels equal to, or above, those received in 2019," he said.
In the US - New Zealand's second largest market for beef - the bank also anticipates good returns in 2020 due to a combination of limited availability of New Zealand beef supplies and what it expects to be an easing of the New Zealand dollar.
According to the report, New Zealand's beef production is expected to increase marginally in 2020, lifting by about 2 per cent.
On the sheepmeat front, the report said New Zealand farmgate prices are forecast to remain at record levels, while production is set to increase slightly.