Pork imports expected to stay high

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, April 23, 2019
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Guests examine dishes at an event introducing pork from France's Brittany region in Beijing in February. [Photo/Xinhua]

Because of a decrease in domestic pork supplies following African swine fever outbreaks, China will see its pork imports rise rapidly to historical highs over the next two years, according to a report released on Saturday.

China's pork imports are expected to reach 1.7 million metric tons this year, an increase of more than 40 percent over last year, according to the China Agricultural Outlook (2019-28) from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

Imports are expected to increase to 2.1 million tons next year, and may then start to decline due to rising domestic supplies. However, they will remain at high levels over the next few years.

With the reduced supply, pork prices in China are expected to increase by up to 40 percent this year compared with last year, with a more prominent rise in the latter half of the year. Prices are expected to continue rising over the next two years.

Pork production in China has started to decline since the latter half of last year, following the country's first African swine fever outbreak in August, and total production this year is expected to decrease by 6.7 percent to 50.4 million tons. It is expected to further decrease to 46 million tons next year.

With reduced risk of disease because of control and prevention measures, pork production is expected to rebound starting in 2021.

Since August, there have been more than 120 African swine fever outbreaks in China, touching almost all provincial regions and resulting in the slaughter of more than 1 million pigs.

China, the world's largest consumer of pork, has produced about half of the world's pork supply.

Agricultural authorities have implemented strict quarantine measures on the prevention and control of African swine fever, which is deadly to pigs but does not affect humans. These measures include slaughtering of pigs suspected to have the disease, intensifying farm inspections and banning transport of pigs across areas where outbreaks have been reported.

Despite the progress made in containment, China still faces difficult challenges in eliminating the disease, according to the ministry.

Zhu Zengyong, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences who helped draft the report, said China's pork imports will see a quick rise in the latter half of this year, and total imports for the year will break the previous annual import record of 1.6 million tons.

Major sources of pork imports include the European Union, Canada and Brazil, he said.

Although more imports can temporarily ease a domestic supply shortage, Zhu said, the move will also affect domestic production.

"Importing pork in great quantities will result in domestic pork prices remaining low, which will encourage farmers raising small numbers of pigs to quit the business and therefore further reduce the domestic supply," Zhu said.

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