Economist: China animal diseases as big a problem as coronavirus
BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — African swine fever and an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza are as big a problem for U.S. agricultural exporters as the human coronavirus, Bob Young, the former American Farm Bureau Federation chief economist, told the crop insurance industry here today.
Young, who now runs his own consulting firm, noted that since 2018 there have been 165 outbreaks of African swine fever in 32 regions of China and that about 1.2 million pigs have been culled. That may not seem like a large number, but the biggest factor is that the Chinese have been killing their breeding herds, he said.
For U.S. crop farmers and exporters hoping to resume normal feed exports to China, the question is whether the Chinese will need the feed.
“What if they don’t want to buy it because they don’t have the pigs,” Young said in a presentation on the state of the U.S. farm economy.
In addition, he noted, in recent weeks, there have been outbreaks of bird flu that have resulted in the destruction of thousands of chickens. That outbreak would have gotten more attention if the outbreak of human coronavirus — now called COVID-19 by the World Health Organization — were not so dire.
The coronavirus may also slow the Chinese economy.
Young said he does not view the U.S. farm economy as in crisis, but that due to these issues in China he sees “all sorts of uncertainty for the crop sector.”
Young said he doesn’t know whether the Trump administration will make another round of the trade aid known as Market Faciliation Program payments. Concern about deficits would make it “tough to talk about that, but it is a year divisible by four,” he said, referring to the presidential election. “It is a political question.”
Young asked the crop insurance executives at the meeting if they have lost business or expect to lose business due to farmers’ financial problems, but no one raised a hand.