The virulent form of porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus (PEDv), now in the USA, Mexico and Canada, could improve the market for UK pork producers, but caution is still needed against infection.

Since the first outbreak of PEDv in the USA in May last year, 60% of the US pig breeding herd and 28% of the Mexican herd has been affected and in January it spread to Canada, reports Robobank.

The impact on the market would be “circular”, said Mick Sloyan, BPEX director, providing a good opportunity for UK pig farmers and the rest of the EU. At the start of the year a weakening in the Continental EU market created a gap between it and the UK.

See also: World pork market set firm for rest of year

The sudden arrival of African swine fever in Eastern Europe prompted Russia – the EU’s third largest pork export market – to ban imports from the EU, causing a drop of about 20% in EU prices.

PEDv infection risks

  • PEDv can spread rapidly and lead to 100% mortality rates in litters
  • Infection to UK herds most likely to be from live imports
  • Origin of PEDv in USA has not been identified, although it is similar to strains in China
  • Canada source may come from blood plasma in milk replacers
  • BPEX warns to avoid plasma protein in feed and check with your supplier
  • DEFRA will meet farmers through the Pig Animal Health and Welfare Group in early April

Meanwhile, PEDv caused prices in the USA – the world’s second biggest pork exporter – to increase nearly 50% over three months. The resulting combination of high US prices and low EU prices means the US may find it difficult to export on the world market, said Mr Sloyan.

“This poses a fantastic opportunity for the EU, including the UK, to export pork on the world market,” said Mr Sloyan. “Our prices in the UK are higher than the EU at the moment, which is putting downward pressure on our market, while EU prices are likely to rise and come closer to our prices. This will have a positive impact on the EU and also stop our prices falling too much,” he said.

The impact on the US pig market was likely to be severe however, with a 12.5 million fattening pig shortfall in 2014, amounting to 11% of the country’s annual slaughter, said William Sawyer, analyst at Robabank.

If the virus spreads as fast in Canada and Mexico as in the USA, North America’s clean pig slaughter could fall by nearly 18.5 million head over 2014, said the report, equal to a 12.5% drop from 2013.