Asia Minute: China’s Pork Problems

Sep 16, 2019

U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators are scheduled to resume talks next month. Late last week, China said it would loosen restrictions on some imports from the United States. And that includes one of the most important consumer products in China.

Nobody in the world does pork like the Chinese.

According to the Chinese government, the country consumes more than half of the pork raised in the entire world.

A recent report from a United Nations agency finds nearly two thirds of all the meat eaten in China is pork — and researchers expect that trend to continue.

The overwhelming majority of that is still produced domestically, but in recent years imports have been growing. Before the current trade dispute, an increasing amount of that pork had been coming from the United States.

But there’s an even bigger factor at play than trade tensions.

Since last year, Chinese pork imports have spiked higher because of African swine fever – a virus which has swept through pig herds in every single province in the country — disrupting supplies. China’s vice premier says the country faces a shortage of ten million tons of pork.

Prices have also jumped — especially this summer. According to government statistics, pork prices in China have nearly doubled since July.

All of that has led to increased imports from Europe and Latin America — especially Brazil.

While U.S. pig farmers may get a short-term boost because of the loosened restrictions, a longer term solution depends on more extensive progress in broader U.S./China trade talks scheduled for next month.