Annual world pork consumption is about 100 million tons and 50 million of them are consumed in China, according to Karsten Bruun Rasmussen, marketing manager of the Danish Agriculture and Food Council.

Currently, Chinese pig producers cannot keep up with growing demand for pig meat products, so its needs for imports are expected to increase in the coming years. Rasmussen points out that about 6 million tons of pork is traded internationally, so if China’s imports increase by 2 million tons, that could push the amount traded globally up by 30%.

China’s taste for pork
 The Denmark pig sector has had access to the Chinese mainland for some time and it is now selling pork products directly to retailers and restaurants where the demand for more than just “fifth quarter” products is growing.

“They still want the pig feet and the ears and other cuts that are not easy to sell in the West, but as the Chinese middle class grows there is an increasing demand for the more conventional cuts of pork. It is not unusual to see two front feet next to some fine pork loin cuts on the supermarket shelves in China today,” said Rasmussen.

And the significance of this demand for a variety of pork cuts is being recognized by the UK, The Netherlands, as well as Denmark.

The British Pig Executive’s international manager, Peter Hardwick has been fighting to gain full access to the Chinese market for several years He even learned Mandarin to help cut a deal and he has said that the opportunity to sign an agreement to export “fifth quarter” British pig meat products to China has never been better – and that could provide a life-saving boost for UK pig producers.

Pig meat exports
 “Our exports to the Far East region have already jumped dramatically, along with other red meats recently. But, I believe the pig meat portion of that trade could at least double when the final agreement between the UK and China is signed,” said Hardwick.

That would provide a tremendous boost for the UK pig producers, currently struggling like many farmers in the West with volatile feed prices, energy costs and low pig prices. “Not only will we be able to market certain cuts of the pig that are not easy to sell in the West, we will also be able to get higher prices for them in China,” said, Hardwick.

It appears the Dutch pig industry agrees with this outlook. Frans van Dongen, director of the Brussels office of the Dutch Product Boards for Livestock, Meat and Eggs, said: “China is especially important for the “fifth quarter,” as it pays a higher price for these products. This is very important for the overall profit for the pig farmer.”

The Netherlands has limited access to the Chinese mainland, but van Dongen commented they are working hard to increase exports. Pig producers in the United States, Canada and Brazil are also looking towards the East as other markets, such as Japan and Russia become more difficult.

What I find interesting is that while China is being seen as the key to prosperity for pig producers in the West, it is also providing new growth opportunities for industries traditionally allied to the pig industry. Big Dutchman, Boehringer Ingelheim, PIC and JSR are just some of the companies that are already putting down roots, or working on contracts in China.

It appears that while China’s insatiable demand for pork promises to keep many Western pig producers in business for some time, its determination to improve both the quantity and quality of its domestic pork production should ensure future prosperity for the global pig industry.