A key assumption made by Australian experts this week in tipping red meat prices are on the slide, may in fact be wrong.
China may be telling porkies about the size of its hog herd, a senior analyst claimed today.
Updated information may cause those official forecasts to be hurriedly revised.
Experienced industry analyst Simon Quilty today told the ABARE conference all the evidence suggested the impact of African swine fever on China's hog herd was far from over.
This is despite a statement from China's Ministry of Agriculture this week saying its hog numbers would return to pre-swine fever levels by the middle of this year.
Mr Quilty said: "The rhetoric we have heard is simply not true.
"China's rebuild has been set back many years."
He is not the only analyst to question the Chinese claim, Andrew Whitelaw from Thomas Elders Markets came to the same conclusion last month.
More than a million pigs, about half the total Chinese hog herd either died or were culled after an outbreak of African swine fever in late 2018.
Pork is China's most popular meat so it has been forced to rely on importing other protein from around the world such as replacement pork, poultry and beef and sheepmeat from around the world, chiefly South America and Australia.
Mr Quilty said all the evidence pointed to continued problems with China's hog herd.
Prices for pork in China were continuing to rise, he said.
"It shows at a look they are struggling to rebuild.
"This is a herd which is far from recovered."
He said import data also revealed the variation from the official line.
He said "anecdotal reports" shows the outbreaks of African swine fever were still continuing to cause problems.
Mr Quilty said up to eight million sows were believed lost in the past 6-8 weeks.
He said real-time information from nearby Vietnam on the impact of the swine fever outbreak was illuminating on what was likely also happening in China.
China's hog herd rebuild had been set back many years, Mr Quilty said.
In answer to a question later at ABARE, he said the impact is still 12 to 18 months away from being fixed at least.
He expects Australian exports of beef and sheepmeat to be even greater this year than last year.
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