Despite the release of government stores of pig meat onto the market and rising imports, pork prices in China are reaching historic highs, reported the South China Morning Post. Already at CNY18.34 (USD2.76) per kilo, one analyst predicts the price to break the current record set in May of CNY21.00 (USD3.16) per kilo as soon as September. Another source put the increase in pig meat prices at 51 percent so far this year, and wholesale prices already at CNY26.74 (USD4.02) in Shanghai in June.
Imports of pig meat by China between January and June 2016 were more than double the volume during the same period in 2015. The total figure for fresh and frozen pork was up 138 percent to 762,300 metric tons (840,291 US tons) from just under 320,000 metric tons (352,739 US tons) for the first 6 months of last year.
Pork importation sources for China
According to official figures cited by the UK’s Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board - Pork, the leading supplier to China was the European Union, which sent 528,000 metric tons (582,020 US tons), 128 percent more than in the first 6 months of 2015. Of the EU countries, Germany, Spain and Denmark were the top suppliers to China. The U.S. more than doubled its trade to 108,600 metric tons (119,711 US tons). There also were significant increases reported for Canada and Brazil.
Pork imports by China could exceed 2 million metric tons for the year, according to the latest forecast from Rabobank.
Causes of pork importation increase in China
Main reasons for imports growth are the delayed recovery of domestic production following last year’s downsizing of the breeding herd, along with the government’s tough environmental barriers for livestock production that are hampering both new entrants to the market and the expansion of existing pig farms.
To add to the market pressure, large numbers of China’s pigs have drowned in the recent widespread and severe flooding following heavy rain. Further implications from the flooding include the increased risk of diseases, and pigs being slaughtered at lighter weights than usual.
Official figures put domestic production down almost 4 percent in the first half of the year, before the worst effects of the floods. The situation is not helped by the fact that the 5 provinces worst hit by the flooding account for one-third of the country’s pork, according to the South China Morning Post.
Forecast of domestic rebound
Ma Chuang, general secretary of the Chinese association of Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine offered an optimistic view. He said domestic pork output will likely rebound when the country’s pig farms relocate to new areas away from major rivers and cities, a measure taken in response to concerns over food safety as well as the environment.