China's Pork Output Falls, Smaller Drop Than Expected

( Taoqi Shao )

China’s pork output fell, but by less than expected in the first half of 2019 as China tackles the deadly African swine fever (ASF) virus. 

In the first six months of the year, China produced 24.7 million metric tons of pork, down 5.5% from a year earlier, according to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics. Meanwhile, China’s hog herd declined 15% from a year ago to 347.61 million head, the bureau said.

However, Reuters reported that figures from China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs on the same day said the herd had shrunk 25.8% in June from a year earlier, with sow herd numbers down 26.7%.

Analysts were surprised at the drop in pork output, which showed that the pace of decline changed little from 5.2% in the first quarter. 

“It’s much smaller than expected,” said Feng Yonghui, chief analyst at Soozhu.com. “The gap between this and the decline in pig herd is too big.”

Pork output should have declined by more than 10%, Feng said. The number of slaughtered hogs in the first six months of 2019 fell 6.2% to 313.46 million head, the statistics bureau said.

Others have also raised questions on the official data on China’s hog herd, Reuters reported. 

Live hog prices remained steady through much of the second quarter but rose sharply in early June. Average prices have hit $2.59 per kilogram, up from $2.07 at the end of May. Retail pork prices reached $3.85 per kg in the final week of June, up 33% on the year, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

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