Pork is by far China’s favorite meat; the country produces about half of the world’s output and fluctuations there influence hog and meat prices globally. China is expected to increase its pork imports in the coming months, as its pig herd is hit by the effect of industry losses suffered last year and consumption recovers after COVID restrictions ease and the country stabilises.
As the end of the year comes closer, the speculation regarding the future of the pork market is becoming clearer and so are the reasons to believe imports will be steady next year. It is a fact that pork demand in households fell due to low income as an effect of strict COVID-19 policies in 2022, but in recent weeks, there was a sudden change and these restrictions are finally eased, meaning that demand will pick up as this was the main factor pulling Chinese consumption down.
A second reason that will work in favor of imports, is high feed costs this year, which caused farmers to incur losses. To curb these losses they sold off herds, culled more sows than normal, or slowed production by not mating females, and some farmers were holding pigs back from slaughter to fatten them up more for the higher prices.
With fewer pigs born at the end of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, the number of slaughter-ready hogs dropped last summer. Figures from the Agriculture Ministry show China had 44.6 million sows in September 2021, falling to 41.85 million by March 2022 before recovering to more than 43 million by September 2022.
The Genesus report for December offers a closer overview on this year’s imports stating that from January to October, China imported 1.3768 million tons of fresh and frozen pork, down 58.8% year on year. The top three sourcing countries were Spain, Brazil and Denmark, accounting for 27.5%, 23.7%, and 10.3% respectively.
It is anticipated that 2023 will see slight import growth, although volumes are not expected to match those of 2021. Reports estimate that total pig meat imports (including offal) will stabilise over the next couple of years at around 2 million tonnes.