China Temporarily Restricts U.S. Pig Imports Amid Virus

Apr 04, 2014 2:49 pm ET

(Adds USDA comment starting in third paragraph.)

April 4 (Bloomberg) -- China, the world’s largest pork consumer, has put “temporary restrictions” on imports of U.S. pigs to prevent a swine disease from spreading to its herds, according to the Livestock Exporters Association of the USA.

China isn’t issuing more import permits for U.S. pigs until the countries agree on testing protocol for porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, said Tony Clayton, president of the group. China can resume importing “fairly quickly” as long as “the U.S. agrees to some kind of testing protocol,” Clayton said yesterday.

“I understand there’s an agreement on the protocol,” Ed Curlett, a spokesman at the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said in a telephone interview today, noting that the request refers to live animals. The USDA doesn’t “anticipate any disruption in trade as we move forward with implementing this testing and certification.”

China purchased 14,000 head of U.S. swine, valued at $20 million last year, the USDA said. The Ministry of Agriculture in Beijing didn’t immediately reply to questions sent from Bloomberg News by fax seeking comment on the matter.

“There is no ban in place, just testing and certification that we will provide so that trade continues unimpeded,” Curlett said in an e-mail. “China is asking for testing, and certification that exported animals are derived from a PEDv-free herd.” The agency is “both capable and willing to do this work,” he said.

China’s hog-farming industry, already contending with losses and price declines amid oversupply in the domestic market, would be damaged by any outbreak of the PED virus, said Ma Chuang, a partner at animal-husbandry researcher Beijing Boyar Communication Co.

Futures Rally

Ma said the restrictions were unlikely to have a lasting affect on the pork trade. China imported about 17,000 live pigs in 2013, according to data tracked by Ma. The country had its own PED virus outbreak in 2011, he said.

Hog futures in Chicago rallied 49 percent in the three months through March, the best quarterly gain since 1999. The contract for June settlement fell 2.4 percent to settle at $1.2055 a pound today, capping the biggest weekly decline since August 2009.

Clayton is also president of Clayton Agri-Marketing Inc., a livestock-export company that ships about 4,000 pigs to China a year, he said.

PED virus has been found in at least 27 U.S. states since April, with more than 5,000 confirmed cases, according to the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.