Self-made billionaire Qin Yinglin is the world’s richest farmer with a $22bn (£17.82bn) personal fortune.
His Chinese pork empire has rocketed in the past year due to shortages and higher prices during the 2019 African swine flu outbreak and the subsequent COVID-19 pandemic.
Yinglin and his wife Qian Ying, started their first pig farm in 1992 with just 22 piglets. By 2019 they had more than 10 million pigs within their Shenzhen-listed company Muyuan Foods.
As the most popular protein in China, pork is in high demand and losses in supply from culling or restrictions can cause prices to rapidly accelerate.
The outbreak of swine flu in 2019 wiped out half of China’s pigs driving up prices by 160%. This sent Muyuan Foods share prices soaring 200% and by June last year Yinglin’s wealth had doubled to $22bn.
The strength of the company is due to it maintaining ownership of a high percentage of its own farms enabling it to better control hygiene and biosecurity thus warding off diseases.
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When China went into lockdown in early February this year the supply of pork was restricted, further boosting Muyuan stock by 80% between February 3 and April 28. This added a quick $6bn to Yinglin’s fortune.
But analysts predict the restocking of China’s pork supply could mean a decline in Yinglin’s personal wealth which has been underpinned by overpricing in the industry.
Pork prices are now falling as the swine flu outbreak stabilises and coronavirus lockdown is lifted, and the market is expected to continue to normalise.
“This is a limited story [for Muyuan] in terms of time,” Wilhelm Uffelmann, head of consultancy Roland Berger’s food and agribusiness practice, told the Financial Times.
Earlier this year Yinglin told the media COVID-19 was a mixed blessing for farmers.
“The epidemic will force the weaker companies and farmers to completely withdraw but it will be an opportunity for profit and development for the stronger enterprises,” he said.