African Swine Fever (ASF) is a viral disease that affects domestic and wild pigs. ASF is highly infectious and is fatal for pigs. Unfortunately, ASF has been ravaging the Chinese pork industry, which is by far the largest in the world. Some estimates suggest more pigs in China have died from ASF than exist in all of the United States. ASF does not cause illness in humans, but border security has been ramped up in the U.S. to make sure the virus doesn’t enter and hit our producers.
The other day I was asked about the potential economic impacts if ASF hit the United States. To answer the question, I constructed a fairly simply model of the U.S. pork industry (see details here). The basic idea is this that if ASF hit the U.S., the quantity of pork supplied would fall. This would, of course, result in less pork on the market and would result in an increase in price of hogs and pork for consumers. I considered three possible scenarios: a 10%, 25%, and 50% reduction in the quantity of U.S. pork supplied as potential outcomes of ASF. Of course, there are other possible impacts. It is likely that foreign buyers of U.S. pork might shut off imports from the U.S. to protect their own domestic herds. Thus, I also considered what happens if all foreign buyers of U.S. pork stopped importing. Finally, even though the disease does not affect humans, domestic consumers may choose to cut back if ASF hit the domestic herd; I thus considered a 10% reduction in consumer willingness-to-pay for pork.
Here are the possible impacts I calculate.
First, consider the impacts if only U.S. domestic supply is affected but foreign and U.S. consumers do not change their preferences. In the mildest scenario (a 10% supply reduction), both U.S. consumers and U.S. hog producers would lose about $1 billion/year. In the worst-case scenario considered (a 50% supply reduction), both U.S. producers and consumers would be worse off by almost $5 billion/year.
Now, what happens if foreign buyers of U.S. pork decide to stop buying? Over 20% of U.S. domestic production is exported, so the effects aren’t trivial. The estimates under the three supply reduction scenarios and a 100% reduction in foreign quantity demanded are shown below. Now, the worst-case scenario (a 50% supply reduction) results in an almost $7 billion/year loss for U.S. producers. The impacts on U.S. consumers are somewhat muted because there is now more supply on the U.S. market for U.S. consumers since foreign buyers are no longer buying, and as a result their losses aren’t as severe as in the above table.
Finally, consider the worst of all impacts. Supply in the U.S. falls (by either 10%, 25% or 50%), foreign buyers reduce their quantity demanded by 100%, and U.S. consumers also reduce their willingness-to-pay by 10%. Now, both U.S. producer and consumer impacts vary from about $4 to about $8 billion/year.