China 2018 pork output falls 0.9 pct to 54 mln T - stats bureau

BEIJING, Jan 21 (Reuters) - China produced 54.04 million tonnes of pork in 2018, down 0.9 percent from a year earlier, official data showed on Monday, as the world’s top consumer of the meat grapples with the spread of African swine fever, raising supply concerns.

Output fell as the size of the herd declined 3 percent to 428.17 million head, according to the data from the National Bureau of Statistics.

China has been battling the world’s fastest spreading epidemic of African swine fever since August last year, stoking expectations of stronger demand for overseas pork supplies.

The country is the world’s top pork producer, accounting for about half of global supply, with all of its production consumed domestically.

But many farmers are slaughtering their herds as swine fever cuts prices in major production areas due to restrictions on transporting pigs, leading to worries about a supply shortfall in the second-half of the year.

For 2018, the number of slaughtered pigs fell by 1.2 percent to 693.82 million head, showed the data.

The agriculture ministry said last week that national pig stocks in December were almost 5 percent lower than a year earlier, while the number of breeding sows was down by more than 8 percent.

The statistics bureau data also showed beef output grew by 1.5 percent to 6.44 million tonnes in 2018, the highest level in records going back 20 years, while lamb output rose 0.8 percent to 4.75 million tonnes.

Poultry production rose 0.6 percent to 19.94 million tonnes. (Reporting by Dominique Patton; editing by Richard Pullin)