February 6, 2017


China pork imports surge in 2016



China's pork imports in 2016 more than doubled year-on-year to 1.6 million tonnes, making the nation the dominant global pork importer.


In contrast, other key Asian pork importers posted relatively modest growth last year, AHDB Pork noted. Even then, with Chinese demand ultimately expected to fall back, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea may become important outlets for global pork supplies in the coming years, the pork division of the UK Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board added.


AHDB Pork said the restructuring of the Chinese pig industry was key to driving import demand over the past year. Most of this growth occurred early 2016, with volumes shipped in the final quarter up a more modest 32% year-on-year. Volumes, in fact, were already elevated in the fourth quarter of 2015. Last year's fourth-quarter figures still represented more than double the volume imported during this period in 2014.


The EU supplied two-thirds of the imported product, particularly in the early part of 2016, driven by plentiful supplies, competitive prices and hormone-free production systems.


US pork gains ground


However, as the year progressed, the EU lost market share to the increasing supplies of price-competitive US pork. Brazil also proved to be an emerging threat after gaining increased access to China; it became China's eighth-largest pork supplier last year.


China's offal imports last year increased 72% from the previous year to 1.3 million tonnes. The EU remained the dominant supplier, accounting for over 50% of the market share, while American shipments trebled on 2015 levels to over 424,000 tonnes. This growth became more pronounced as the year progressed, as supplies of competitive US product increased.


This year Chinese domestic production is expected to increase, and therefore the country's demand for imported product is expected to decrease, creating a concern for the global pork market, as China has been a key outlet against a backdrop of lacklustre demand for pig meat in Europe and the US.


"Ultimately, unless alternative markets can be found, a fall in demand from China could begin to put pressure on global pork prices this year, particularly in light of the expansion in US production", AHDB said.
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