Faced with concerns over antimicrobial resistance in particular, the country launched a pilot program last year that aims to eliminate the use of antibiotics in livestock feed by 2020.
Among possible substitutes for these, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has pointed to Chinese medicine and probiotics as likely candidates for new product development.
Wang Zurong, the Brazilian yeast-based natural additive company’s general manager, said he has been seeing indications that aquaculture farms and feed mills were already investigating alternatives to antibiotics even before the government’s pronouncement.
“The Chinese market is so big and so varied, there are huge producers and very small ones. There are some integrated farms that have been doing their own research and development, and they’ve been looking at natural products,” he told FeedNavigator last week at VIV Asia in Bangkok.
Most replacements they are looking at now are herbal extracts, he said. "With the ASF outbreak, pig producers and nutritionists are trying to avoid using antibiotics. In addition, they are trying to improve immunity of pig to increase disease resistance."
Biorigin provides functional yeast carbohydrates to boost pig health, he said. The company, he continued, has around 40 years of academic researches and experience in this field.
Many of the firms that have experimented with natural additives have reported higher levels of immunity that were far beyond their expectations, Wang claimed.
This search for natural additives comes on the back of the ubiquitous trust generally shared by the Chinese for traditional remedies, making companies there more receptive to suppliers like Biorigin, he believes. Yet more must still break away from their addition to antibiotics.
“Since feeder technology evolved and more people became are involved in this industry, they have become very used to antibiotic growth promoters,” Wang said.
“It’s the same as in the USA, but it needs to be more like Europe, where they don’t only look at the safety of animals but also the performance of the additives. The Chinese are learning from this. They are starting to change their ideas.”
The Chinese government's policy to eliminate the use of antibiotics in livestock feed by 2020, while posing great challenges, will also bring opportunities for upgrading China’s feed, animal health, and general livestock-farming industries, said Rabobank in a note in November 2018.
"China has the highest antibiotics consumption in the world. Antibiotics use in animals was about 97,000 tons in 2013, accounting for 54% of the country’s total antibiotics consumption. The market value of feed antibiotics is estimated at around CNY3bn to 3.5bn (US$446m) per year.
"The improper application of antibiotics in livestock husbandry is not a new topic in China, and anti-microbial resistance (AMR) has been a key concern for Chinese consumers for many years. Back in 2016, the Chinese government announced a national plan for 2017-2020 to tackle AMR. In 2018, the government’s next step was to launch a timetable for this plan, which aims to eliminate feed antibiotic usage by 2020. The government also designated 100 livestock farms as pilot farms for the program."
Source: China’s Antibiotics Reduction Campaign Will Impact the Entire Livestock Supply Chain
Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines
Biorigin has been approaching its developing Asian markets with relish, especially with Vietnam—with its massive aquaculture industry—and Indonesia also joining in banning antibiotics. From being a one-man show just a few years ago, the company now has 12 staff in Asia under Wang, and it is looking to “make investments” in Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.
“We are making these investments in Asia not just for our pig business but also on the aquaculture side,” Wang said.