BEIJING, CHINA — Soybean meal consumption in China in 2019-20 is forecast to decline to a four-year low as overall feed use is declining due to the African swine fever (ASF) outbreak, according to a Sept. 4 Global Agricultural Information Network report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The USDA projects soybean meal consumption at 63.1 million tonnes, down from 66.8 million tonnes a year ago and 70.1 million tonnes in 2017-18.

The ASF outbreak, which has plagued China’s hog population for more than a year, has led to a steep decline in the country’s sow and hog inventories. China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) reported in July that both hog and sow inventories declined more than 30% from the same month in 2018.

“The negative trend has likely not reached its floor, despite government efforts to encourage producers to restock,” the USDA said.

MARA’s National Husbandry Extension Center reported compound feed production at 93 million tonnes for the first six months of 2019, down marginally from the previous year. It noted that feed for piglets, sows and fattening pigs is down from the previous year, but compound feed catered to other livestock and aquaculture is up.

“The broiler industry witnessed significant growth from the previous year as consumers continue to substitute pork for chicken meat,” the USDA said.

Due to the significant decline in swine inventories, China’s soybean imports for 2019-20 are forecast to be the lowest in five years.

 Meanwhile, the country’s soybean production is forecast at 17.1 million tonnes, up from 15.9 million tonnes in 2018-19, as government subsidies are encouraging farmers to plant soybeans.