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Meat production to fall due to African swine fever outbreak, says FAO
Friday, 08 November, 2019, 12 : 00 PM [IST]
World meat production was expected to decline in 2019 for the first time in more than two decades, as the African swine fever outbreak in China decimated pig herds. This was stated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

The production of bovine, ovine, poultry and pig meats was forecast to total 335 million tonne in carcass weight equivalent. This was one per cent lower than the previous year, according to the Food Outlook published recently.

The drop was driven by an anticipated contraction of at least 20 per cent for pigmeat output in China, which usually accounted for close to half the world’s production. Poultry output in China, by contrast, had been rapidly ramped up and was expected to grow by 17 per cent year-on-year, containing the country's total meat output decline to eight per cent.

Pigmeat typically accounted for more than a third of the worldwide meat output, poultry for 39 per cent and bovine meat for 21 per cent.

The global production of poultry - which accounts for a larger share of all meat than pigmeat - as well as that of bovine and ovine meat was expected to grow this year, with increases anticipated in Argentina, Brazil, the European Union (EU) and the United States of America.

Global trade in meat products was forecast to grow by 6.7 per cent this year, compared to a slowing trend observed for many food commodities.

The Food Outlook assessed market and production trends for a wide array of food commodities, including cereals, fish, sugar, oilcrops and milk as well as meat.

The current edition also carried a special report on the threat to global banana markets posed by Fusarium Wilt Tropical Race 4 (TR4), which was recently detected for the first time in Latin America.

Food use of staple cereals expands
“Worldwide wheat and maize production is expected to increase in 2019, while rice to dip below the previous year’s record. On the consumption side, per capita food use of all three cereals was forecast to keep pace and even exceed population growth,” said FAO.

Global oilseed production, meanwhile, was anticipated to contract for the first time in three years, largely due to expectations of a contraction in soybean plantings and lower yields in the United States of America, as well as weaker prospects for rapeseed in Canada and the EU.

FAO also expected the world sugar production to drop by 2.8 per cent in the year ahead, even as global consumption expanded.

Milk production was expected to expand by 1.4 per cent, with dairy herd expansions in India and Pakistan accounting for almost 90 per cent of the increased volume.

Global fish production was foreseen to remain unchanged from 2018, with a 3.4 per cent decline in capture fisheries offset by a 3.9 per cent increase in aquaculture harvests. Trade in fish was predicted to drop, although imports to China were expected to increase substantially.

Banana vigilance
The Food Outlook also assessed the hypothetical market risks of the TR4 disease on the $45 billion global production market for bananas and plantains. The analysis was presented to provide indications useful for informing policy decisions rather than offering forecasts.

With conservative assumptions - including that the fungus does not spread beyond Colombia in Latin America - TR4’s gradual spread is likely to take its greatest toll in Asia, and would entail a two per cent drop in global output, the loss of 2,40,000 direct jobs and induce a 9.2 per cent rise in the global reference price for bananas by 2028.

The spread of TR4 evoked the ghost of damage done by an earlier Fusarium wilt variety that devastated the Gros Michel banana variety in the 1950s, triggering billions of dollars of trade losses and leading to its replacement by the Cavendish.

Fusarium wilt fungi were particularly severe, as they remained in the soil for decades, leading farms to be abandoned and catalysing pressure to expand banana cultivation in new unaffected lands.

The TR4 strain posed particularly elevated risks, as it affected varieties beyond the Cavendish, which accounted for most of the fast-growing world trade in the fruit, but not of local consumption.

Bananas can provide up to 25 per cent of the daily calorie intake in rural areas of some countries, such as Angola and Rwanda.

“The wide-ranging potential ramifications of TR4 spreading necessitates elevated vigilance at production sites around the world and investment in research - by exporting countries and by developed countries that import some of the 100 billion bananas eaten each year - on preventing and mitigating the disease,” said Sabine Altendorf, FAO's tropical fruit economist.
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