CHINA, Beijing. The sharp increase in Chinese pork imports continued in April. Rising domestic production is causing prices to fall.
According to preliminary data from the General Customs Administration, a new import record of around 400,000 t was achieved in the month under review. From January to April, the volume imported amounted to 1.35 mill. t, an increase of 170% over the first third of 2019. If offal is added, Chinese importers ordered as much as 1.77 mill. t of pork, spending $4.96 bn. or the equivalent of € 4.55 bn.
There was also a higher demand for imports of other types of meat in the first third of the current year. For example, beef imports rose by more than half to 680,000 t compared with the first four months of 2019; the import expenditure required for this rose by a good 80% to € 3.39 bn. In total, the Chinese purchased the record quantity of 3.04 mill. t of meat including by-products from their international suppliers in the first third of the year, an increase of 82% compared to the previous year. The equivalent of € 9.64 bn. had to be spent on this, more than twice as much as in the same period last year.
Analysts attribute the increased growth in pork imports in April to falling import prices. Suppliers in the USA in particular were able to offer their goods at very low prices for a long time due to the low pig prices. It was not until large US slaughterhouses were closed down in April due to increased corona cases that pork became increasingly scarce and expensive. From May onwards, this could at least temporarily slow down imports from there, especially as companies such as Smithfield and JBS have announced that they will increasingly serve the domestic market.
But also in China itself the absolute high-price phase on the pig market is over. For almost 14 weeks in a row, the wholesale market prices for pork fell continuously. The reason for this, in addition to high imports and the release of stored goods, is a significant drop in slaughter pig prices as a result of the resumption of production. Whereas in mid-February the national average price for slaughter pigs was almost CNY 38 per kg live weight (€ 4.87), by mid-May it was less than CNY 28 per kg (€ 3.60). Admittedly, this is still around 2.8 times the revenue pigs in the EU generate and more than four times the US price.