UNITED KINGDOM, London. After two months of shut down, China has begun to cautiously relax measures brought in to control the spread of coronavirus, although some areas have stricter protocols than others.
While economic activity is now picking up, it is reported consumers are still cautious about attending crowded places. More consumers are using western style supermarkets instead. This, in turn, favours frozen imported foods as does the decreased frequency of shopping.
Although factories have reopened, reports suggest they are operating at around 50% capacity. Some of this is driven by demand. Many labourers have not yet returned to work. As a result, cash strapped families may be reluctant to spend, further limiting economic recovery speed in China.
Looking towards recovery timescales, some studies and reports suggest this could take several months for China to be back at full economic activity. Other reports fear a second wave of coronavirus later in the year could halt progress once more.
The news that the shipping industry is beginning to move and that China is beginning to take products again may bring some relief to UK farmers. There had been concern by some sheep farmers that imports from New Zealand and Australia would increase as these countries redirected product originally intended for China. Early data suggests any re-direction to the UK has been limited.
For the pig industry the news that China is resuming economic activity brings equally good news. There was optimism in the industry that disruption to pork imports would be temporary, and that the significant import demand created by African Swine Fever in China, would resume. Reports indicate EU and UK processors have been storing product for export, but there are practical limitations to this. A recovery in real export demand will ultimately be important for maintaining pig prices.