New regulations that call for the removal of livestock production from China’s highly populated areas could lead to an opportunity for the U.S. to increase the amount of pork products it exports to China.

Dermot Hayes, Iowa State University economics professor, told attendees of the World Pork Expo that as China gets more strict about the prevention of viruses and diseases, it is also getting more strict about where animal agriculture operations can be located.

“The problem with having more than a billion people and a couple billion pigs and birds, all touching each other, [is] you get a new flu every year and a new livestock disease every year. They are trying to get rid of that by moving the pigs away from markets and freeways and people,” said Hayes.

With a lot of pig production around larger cities located in the eastern portion of the country, substantially more pigs would need to be produced in the less populated western portion of China. But that will be no easy task, Hayes said.

“If they implement the rules as prescribed, and try to move the pig industry … you’re going to have to destroy a lot of existing infrastructure and build new infrastructure in places it doesn’t exist,” said Hayes.

With the potential of less pork production in China as a result of these regulations, and a lack of support for the Chinese pig industry from its own government, Hayes said this could pose a great opportunity for exports of U.S. pork and pork products. He said the potential is there for China to import between 30 and 40 percent of its pork.

“I think the long-run opportunities are enormous,” said Hayes.