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2020-05-08 11:22:46

2020 may be synonymous with the COVID-19 pandemic for generations to come. Will it also be remembered as the year pig farming became more lucrative than real estate?

Chinese real estate giant Vanke is venturing into the field of animal husbandry to widen the scope of its business operations and cash in on surging domestic demand for pork. The shift comes at a time when many markets, including housing, are being hammered by the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, Vanke — China’s second-largest real estate developer — advertised vacancies for several new positions including farm managers, site development specialists, and veterinarians.

“The sharp rise in pork prices in 2019, as well as the inconveniences brought by the coronavirus outbreak in early 2020 … have made the company realize the importance of serving existing clients and being in the ‘farm to table’ industry chain,” Vanke said in its recruitment notice. The new project, which has been in development since March, includes pig breeding, vegetable cultivation, and catering.

Vanke is the latest player to join a growing list of high-profile Chinese companies now seeking to satisfy a pork-hungry nation. E-commerce giant Alibaba, tech titan NetEase, real estate firm Country Garden, and a few travel operators have all announced plans to invest in pig farming.

Last year’s mass slaughter of pigs due to African swine fever — a fatal disease that spread to every provincial-level region on the Chinese mainland — resulted in inflated pork prices and made the meat a prized commodity. In July, the price of pork per kilogram was nearly 50% higher than the year prior. The bacon bubble prompted the central government to introduce a raft of measures to stabilize the industry.

Some businesses saw opportunity in pork long before Vanke and the others hopped on the bandwagon. In December, New Hope Group, an agricultural products manufacturing company, said it would funnel more money into its existing pig farms by investing 9 billion yuan ($1.2 billion) to build nine large-scale sites and raise an additional 6.8 million hogs.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: People Visual)