More than a quarter of the world’s pigs are gone and pork prices have nearly doubled, which means stuffing the humble Chinese dumpling — or buying this year’s Christmas ham — is becoming very expensive.
Andy Yu’s family has been in the restaurant game for a “long, long time” and he has been put in charge of their Golden Dumpling restaurant in Brisbane’s south.
He said that sourcing quality ingredients is crucial for the business’s success, but pork in particular has been becoming more expensive.
“We use a lot of pork every day, our dishes are mainly made by pork,” Mr Yu said.
Pork prices have been up significantly — 40 per cent by some estimates — and Mr Yu said he has been paying even more than that.
Pork mince used in dumplings and intestine ingredients have both skyrocketed and it has been getting harder for Mr Yu to make a dollar.
“It’s been shocking since last year,” Mr Yu said.
“Last year I remember we could buy pig intestine for $9 a kilo … but this year it’s hard to buy and anything you come by is $16.50 a kilo or $17 a kilo.
Mr Yu said he could not pass the costs on to customers because he would risk losing them to other restaurants.
Highly-contagious virus reduces pig herd
So what is to blame for the price surge?
A nasty disease called African swine fever (ASF), that has been causing severe illness and high death rates in pigs in China and parts of South East Asia.
Meat and livestock analyst Simon Quilty said the “impact is quite unprecedented”.
“Estimates are now close to 50–60 per cent of the herd within China itself having been lost either to the disease or has been culled as a result of the disease,” he said.
In response the Federal Government has boosted biosecurity funding by $66 million as it has tried to keep ASF out of Australia.
All meat prices expected to rise
If you have already pre-ordered your Christmas ham you might have noticed the festive treat cost much more than last year.
But it has not just been the traditional glazed holiday meat that is expensive — you can expect to start paying higher prices for many barbecued meats this summer and beyond.
That is because ASF has been causing a huge supply and demand problem.
China’s enormous population still wants to eat meat protein so has now been turning to chicken, lamb and beef.
Mr Quilty said while ASF has not reached Australia its price ramifications will be felt at the checkouts here.
“This is going to be a sustained increase in pricing for the next three to five years.
“It’s very difficult to replace the 250 million or so pigs that have been lost so far.”
Mr Yu said he has been wishing for a quick resolution.
“I hope they can just go back to normal,” he said.
“I hope the Chinese guys can get more piggies — something like that!”
The official forecaster said it was clear global protein production and trade has been affected by ASF.
In its December quarter agricultural overview, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) said new outbreaks of the disease had been recorded in Vietnam and “unconfirmed reports of pig deaths are emerging from Indonesia”.
“The significant shortfall in protein supplies is likely to persist for some years and has led to sharply rising meat prices,” the report said.
“Australian farmgate prices for cattle, sheep, lambs, pigs and goats are forecast to be higher year-on-year, partly as a result of strong export demand from Asian countries affected by the outbreak.”