Historically, over 95% of the swine inventory was scattered in small family holdings, with over 130 million rural households raising pigs in the early 2000s, according to the Agricultural Census. However, the industry has changed rapidly in recent years, with a handful of companies expanding dramatically.
The expansion accelerated during a 2014-17 environmental regulatory push that shut down hundreds of thousands of small farms. Then, the African swine fever epidemic wiped out millions more of small farms, with biosecurity requirements and a new round of subsidies favouring big companies.
A recent study by the China Feed Industry Information Network developed for the 7th China High-level swine industry forum shows that only 108 companies holding over 10,000 sows have 25% of China’s swine production capacity. The combined sow inventory of the 108 companies as of October-November 2021 was 11.79 million head.
The largest companies in the market have benefitted greatly in terms of growth during African swine fever crisis. Muyuan Foods Group ranked first, with 2.7 million sows. Three other companies, namely Wens Foodstuff, New Hope-Liuhe, and Zhengbang Technology, were listed with 1 million or more sows each. These top four companies had a combined 5.9 million sows.
For years, Chinese agricultural officials have blamed small farmers for the deep cycles present in the hog industry, with constant expansion when prices are high and then large liquidation campaigns as prices drop. However, the latest market situation during 2021 proves that rise in industry concentration and large players has perpetuated these cycles instead of reducing them.