China’s Pork Imports Surge

( Taoqi Shao )

A 63% jump in China’s pork imports in May as compared to the same month last year, underlines the devastating toll that African swine fever (ASF) continues to take on the world’s largest pork producing country.

China is stocking up on supplies ahead of an anticipated shortage according to customs data released on Sunday. May imports came in at 187,459 metric tons, the largest volume since 192,348 metric tons in August 2016, Reuters reported.

China’s imports in the first five months to May came to 658,236 metric tons, up 19.8% as compared to 2018. 

China’s pork prices increased rapidly in early March, triggering large purchases of meat from overseas markets, including the U.S., Reuters said.
Prices have since stabilized. Importers and traders indicate that demand in recent weeks for imported frozen pork has been very weak despite plentiful fresh pork supply from Chinese farmers. 

Demand is expected to rise again as Beijing announced earlier this month that the country’s sow herd fell by 23.9% in May from a year earlier, a significant drop that will create a major decline in pork production.

In April, analysts at Rabobank said China’s pork output could fall to just 38 million metric tons in 2019, versus 54 million metric tons last year. Based on available world supplies, analysts said imports would be capped at about 4 million metric tons.

In May, Jack Bendheim, Phibro’s chairman, president and chief executive officer, said, “We are entering a period without precedent in the global production of protein.” 

He has made multiple trips to China recently to better understand ASF and its impact on the world’s largest hog producer. His sources in China estimate more than 50% losses in China’s 700-million-head herd. This is equivalent to all of the pigs the rest of the world raises. 

More from Farm Journal’s PORK:
Large Swine Herd Losses in China Pressure Protein Industry

African Swine Fever Losses Cause Export Challenges, Opportunities