China Dec pork arrivals up almost 4-fold y/y - Reuters calculations

BEIJING, Jan 14 (Reuters) - China’s pork imports in December rose almost four times from a year earlier, according to Reuters calculations of customs data released on Tuesday, as the country bought more of the staple meat ahead of Lunar New Year holidays in January.

December arrivals were 375,000 tonnes according to Reuters calculations compared with 95,384 tonnes a year earlier and 229,707 tonnes in November 2019.

Pork imports in 2019 jumped 75% to 2.108 million tonnes, according to General Administration of Customs data after the deadly African Swine Fever disease decimated the country’s huge hog herd.

China’s soybean and pork imports from the United States have “significantly rebounded” in November and December, customs vice minister Zou Zhiwu said at a briefing on Tuesday adding that China’s agricultural imports from the United States were 14.1 billion yuan ($2.05 billion) in December.

This statement was made ahead of a Phase 1 trade deal to be signed between Washington and Beijing. Hopes for big farm imports by China from the United States have dimmed in recent days.

An outbreak of African Swine Fever that started in August 2018 has nearly halved China’s pig herd, according to official data, sending pork prices soaring to record levels.

Meanwhile imports of beef, more expensive but also increasingly popular with the country’s growing middle class, also expanded.

December beef arrivals climbed 80.6% on the year to 189,000 tonnes according to Reuters calculations. They were up marginally from November imports of 186,984 tonnes.

In 2019, beef arrivals rose 59.7% year-on-year to 1.66 million tonnes. ($1 = 6.8689 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Shivani Singh, Hallie Gu and Yawen Chen Editing by Jacqueline Wong)