China’s ministry of agriculture has announced that China was a net importer of pork products in the first 2 months of this year, according to news agency Interfax. In the equivalent period of 2007, China had recorded a surplus of US$102 million in its international trade in pork and pork products. But in January and February 2008 this changed to a deficit of US$10 million. According to ministry statistics, about US$146 million worth of pork and live pigs were imported. The USA was the largest supplier during the first quarter, followed by the European Union (France and Denmark) and Canada.

While China’s pork exports fell sharply, the country exported substantially more live pigs in January and February at a total value of US$52 million.

News agency reports also speculate that the massive earthquake in Sichuan province may have caused untold damage to the provincial pig industry. Sichuan is China’s largest province for pig production, with an inventory of about 87 million pigs and accounting for around 10% of annual output. But many of its pigs are housed in simple shelters and these are thought vulnerable to collapse. One local analyst has warned of the further danger of diseases among livestock, including pigs, with the onset of heavy rains following the earthquake.