July 16 (Bloomberg) -- More pigs from Europe and Mexico could be heading to Japan, the world’s largest pork importer, as a hog virus outbreak is driving up domestic prices, according to the country’s Agriculture Ministry.
Production in Japan may fall as much as 5 percent from October to December, pushing up prices and weakening demand for local pork, Kenji Morita, director at the ministry’s meat and egg division, said today in Tokyo. That’s increasing demand for cheaper imports, he said.
Japan has discovered 1.17 million cases of porcine epidemic diarrhea in 805 farms across 38 prefectures since it confirmed the latest outbreak in October. As many as 343,070 piglets have died, a record number of fatalities from the disease, Yukitake Okamura at the ministry’s animal health division said today by phone.
The first case in the current crisis was found in the southern island of Okinawa on Oct. 1. The virus spread to Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures in December, the two biggest growers of hogs. The U.S., Canada, South Korea and Taiwan have also reported similar outbreaks.
Lean hog futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange have climbed 36 percent this year and traded at $1.16 a pound at 3:31 p.m. in Tokyo.
Japanese farmers raise a total of 9.54 million pigs as of Feb. 1, according the ministry’s survey released July 1. Kagoshima is Japan’s biggest pork-producing prefecture, representing 14 percent of the total Japanese herd. Miyazaki is the second-largest producer with 8.8 percent share.
Japan bought 1.24 million metric tons of pork last year, representing 18 percent of global purchases, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The U.S. is the biggest exporter at 2.29 million tons in 2013.
Pork imports by Japan in the first five months of this year gained 7.7 percent to 331,203 tons from a year earlier, according to data from the Agriculture Ministry. Japanese demand is shifting to imported meat because of an outbreak of the disease, said Makiko Tsugata, an analyst at Market Risk Advisory Co., a researcher in Tokyo.