Imports into China faced pressure during 2018
During 2018, China imported 1.2 million tonnes of fresh/frozen pork, 2% (24,000 tonnes) less than in 2017. In addition to this, 947,000 tonnes of pig offal was imported, down 23% (290,000 tonnes) year-on-year.
There was somewhat of a switch in suppliers during 2018, with Germany overtaking Spain as the largest supplier of fresh/frozen pork. Imports from Germany increased by 8% (16,600 tonnes) for the full 2018 calendar year, while shipments from Spain decreased 8% (17,900 tonnes). This likely reflects the temporary disruption in access for some key German suppliers in early 2017. Imports from the UK recorded an increase of almost 4,000 tonnes, to total 50,000 tonnes during the year.
Fresh/frozen pork imports from the US declined 48% (80,000 tonnes) year-on-year, reflecting the on-going trade war. US pork and offal face an additional 50% tariff on shipments to China, after China retaliated to US tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminium. Meanwhile, China imported over three times (+100,000 tonnes) as much pork from Brazil during 2018 compared to 2017, at 150,000 tonnes. This is related to the temporary closure of the Russian market to Brazilian pork.
Historically, the US has been the main supplier of offal to China. The on-going trade war has therefore seen Chinese offal imports decline significantly, primarily driven by the drop in US shipments. During 2018, Chinese imports of offal from the US decreased 57% (240,000 tonnes) year-on-year. Shipments from Denmark, Germany, Canada and Spain all also recorded declines, however, offal shipments from the UK remained steady.
Overall, the pressure faced by import volumes into China last year reflects both the trade war and low domestic prices early in the year. In more recent months, disruption to live transport in response to African Swine fever has driven pork prices higher in the south, reflecting a shortage of preferred fresh meat. However, it seems sufficient frozen meat supplies are still available from the Northern regions at present to prevent a rise in demand for imported product, which would also be frozen. Nonetheless, several organisations are forecasting a significant decline in Chinese pork production later this year, which is expected to offer some stimulation to import demand. Click here to find out more.
Rebecca Oborne, Analyst
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