A second wave of a serious pig disease in China is expected to slow the country's efforts to rebuild its national herd and help sustain demand for New Zealand red meat.
China is the world's top pork producer and consumer, but in 2019 a large outbreak of the pig disease African Swine Fever] (ASF) resulted in the culling of about half of the country's herd.
That outbreak led to scarcity of the meat and big price hikes, which in turn prompted a lift in imports of other proteins into China - including sheepmeat and beef from New Zealand.
Rabobank senior animal proteins analyst Angus Gidley-Baird said in recent times China had been managing the disease and trying to rebuild pig numbers, but those efforts had been slightly hampered by fresh outbreaks of ASF in some key pork producing provinces.
"Because of this latest outbreak we have lowered the production forecast for Chinese pork for this year. We were expecting a 10 to 15 percent growth, now we've sort of brought that back a bit to eight to 10 percent.
"So, what looked quite positive towards the end of last year in terms of that Chinese rebuild has probably been delayed."
Gidley-Baird said this was positive news for New Zealand sheep meat and beef producers because it would probably mean sustained demand from China for those proteins for a little bit longer yet.
Even when China's pork production did get back on track in the coming years, not all would be lost for sheep and beef farmers, he said.
"Naturally people will trend back to pork, it is the major protein consumed over there and we will see that recover, but we do feel that due to the result of African Swine Fever, but also Covid as well, the sheep meat and beef have been pushed into different channels and people have got greater exposure to it.
"As a result we think there's going to be a greater ongoing demand for that product," Gidley-Baird said.