Economists: Hog Flu in China Means Higher Meat Prices for Israelis

YERUSHALAYIM -
Cows. (Maor Kinsbursky/Flash90 )

A bout of influenza affecting hogs in China is likely to have a direct effect on the pocketbooks of Israeli consumers, and meat importers are preparing for producer price increases of 15% to 20% – if, indeed, they can get meat at all. Pork is the most popular meat in China, but the hog population there has been decimated by African swine fever, causing prices to skyrocket. To quell increasing consumer dissatisfaction, the government in China is importing more beef – including beef from countries like Uruguay and Argentina, where much of the kosher frozen meat consumed by Israelis comes from.

In recent meetings with Israeli importers, Channel 12 reported, farmers and ranchers said that as much as a third of their production was being exported to China. As a result, there were fewer cows for Israeli shochtim to slaughter, and as a result the price per cow was likely to rise.

Bloomberg reported that the disease has killed off some 100 million Chinese hogs, out of a total of 440 million in the country. This is the biggest hog shortage in China since the 1970s, and at the time the country also imported beef to make up for the shortfall, resulting in price increases in Western countries. The increases are likely to be felt around the world, as producers seek to capitalize on the huge Chinese demand for meat. According to industry officials, 3 out of every 10 kilos of beef sold in 2020 will end up on Chinese plates.

Israeli demand for beef has increased substantially in recent years. Demand for beef per capita increased by 25% between 2015 and 2017 alone, with much of the demand for fresh beef, which is slaughtered in Israel from animals that are transported here, usually by ship.