China pork crisis prompts German sausage fears

Sausage stand at Christmas market, Wiesbaden, Germany, 2010 Image copyright Horacio Villalobos/Corbis via/Getty Images
Image caption Sausages are a major feature of German Christmas markets

A sharp drop in Chinese pork production has prompted Germany's meat industry to warn of possible shortages at home, with price rises being passed on to the country's sausage connoisseurs.

The Federal Meat Industry Association (BVDF) has sounded a "schnitzel alarm", as the spread of the deadly African swine fever has seen half of China's pig population slaughtered and triggered a bidding war among meat importers worldwide, according to the Bild tabloid.

The BVDF says Chinese companies are also buying up large amounts of meat abroad to make up for shortfalls at home, and this is "adding up to significant demand on the world pork market".

China says it will also release more pork from its central reserve in a bid to keep prices in the shops manageable ahead of the Lunar New Year next month, but the BVDF says German consumers will not be so lucky.

The Association's president, Sarah Dhem, says the industry has resisted passing on price hikes because of "highly-competitive market conditions", but this is no longer realistic as producers are being squeezed and investment in animal welfare and sustainable farming is at risk.

"Sausage will definitely be more expensive", she told Bild.

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African swine fever has spread throughout China, which accounts for almost half of all pork produced worldwide, and market analyst Tim Koch told Bild the epidemic will have a "knock-on effect on global prices for years to come".

Germany itself has yet to report a single case of swine fever, which is harmless to humans, but it is moving closer to the country's borders - several wild boar died of the disease just 70km away in Poland last month, the Polish media reported.

Image copyright AN MING/Barcroft Media via/Getty Images
Image caption China's pig population has been halved by the epidemic

Reporting by Martin Morgan

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