China became largest pork importer

by Editor
Tuesday, February 10, 2009

China's overseas purchases and imports of pork and pork products in 2008 were unprecedented for any single country in history, according to U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) calculations from just-released Chinese trade data.

Based on import totals from China and Hong Kong, the country imported 1.925 million metric tons (4.2 billion pounds) of pork and pork products last year, including 1.161 million tons (nearly 2.6 billion pounds) of pork variety meats and 764,000 tons (1.7 billion pounds) of pork cuts.

Available trade data suggests that China's imports eclipsed the previous single-year record of 1.022 million tons (2.2 billion pounds) of pork imported by Japan in 2005.

Although final data for 2008 is not yet in, USMEF estimates that total U.S. pork and pork product exports to China and Hong Kong reached 386,000 tons (851 million pounds) valued at nearly $700 million in 2008. The EU and Brazil were the other major pork suppliers to the region.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, by the end of the third quarter of 2008, China's live hog inventory had increased 6.6% from the year-earlier figure, and the sow population increased 12.4%. Total marketed hogs increased 5.8% and meat production was up approximately 6%.

On Jan. 12, China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the state's leading macroeconomic planning and policy agency under the State Council, in concert with key ministries including the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Agriculture, AQSIQ and the Ministry of Finance, announced a new temporary pork price stabilization program ostensibly designed to smooth out the country's volatile hog cycle. Specifically, the program establishes an early warning system for low live hog and pork prices based upon the ratio of live hog to grain prices. As the live hog to corn price index drops, the program sets triggers for different policy actions by central and local authorities, ranging from mandating government purchases of pork for reserves to restricting imports and stimulating exports if prices drop into a "red" zone range.

Results of a new Chinese survey announced estimate that 15% of migrant rural workers – approximately 20 million people – have lost their jobs due to the economic crisis. A number of subsidy increases have been announced for the rural sector in addition to those for the hog-raising sector, including farm machinery and appliance purchasing subsidies, and a 16% rise in the minimum purchase price for grain.