Pork prices in China are surging to new highs as the country’s pork supplies continue to drop from the loss of more than half of the country’s pig herd due to African swine fever (ASF).
Videos are circulating on social media of people fighting over pork in the marketplaces. The double-digit growth in prices this month for this staple source of protein explains the urgency of Chinese consumers trying to secure pork at all costs.
For example, prices of the mainstay – used in popular dishes such as lunchtime dumplings and spicy mapo tofu – have risen 18% in China since the week ended Aug. 9 and are up more than 50% in the past year, the Wall Street Journal reports.
This is the first significant sign of inflation in the market since the arrival of ASF last year, reports Jim Wiesemeyer of Pro Farmer.
Not only is the price increase cutting into consumption but it’s also adding pressure on a government trying to contain food-price inflation during the trade showdown with the U.S., Wiesemeyer says.
China is going abroad for meat now. Pork imports rose more than 60% in the second quarter. But, foreign supplies are increasing in price, too. Beijing levied higher tariffs on U.S. pork last year and suspended pork imports from Canada in June.
Although more consumers are opting for chicken, Wiesemeyer says the pork shortage is also pushing up prices for other meats.
On Thursday, China’s commerce ministry announced it will release frozen pork, beef and mutton from its state reserves in “due course” to increase the amount of meat available to the market. Such releases are not unusual for periods of high prices or demand.
It’s unclear just how much frozen meat the government has in frozen storage, but analysts speculate that this is more of a political gesture and volumes are unlikely to be big enough to have any real impact, Wiesemeyer says. However, Pan Chenjun, senior analyst at Rabobank, says China could call for other players (slaughterhouses, cold storage facilities) to follow suit.