China's pork imports in April jump 170% to record high

BEIJING, May 25 (Reuters) - China, the world’s top pork consumer, imported a record 400,000 tonnes in April, up nearly 170% from a year earlier, customs data showed, as buyers took advantage of low prices to stock up on meat.

China imported 1.35 million tonnes of pork in the first four months of this year, surging 170.4% from the same period a year ago, after a plunge in domestic production kept prices much higher than other markets.

The deadly African swine fever disease has reduced China’s pig herd by at least 40%, slashing pork output and sending prices of the country’s favorite meat to record highs.

China has been buying from overseas markets, including the United States, where pork prices are among the cheapest in the world, and initially fell as infections with COVID-19 began spreading in the country, hitting demand.

Though Chinese pork prices have also fallen steadily since early February, they are still about double where they were a year ago, and were three to four times U.S. pork prices in March, before plant shutdowns caused the latter to spike in mid-April.

That U.S. price jump is likely to reduce imports in the coming month, while Chinese pork prices are also still falling on weak domestic demand.

U.S. pork exports to China set a record for the period from January to March, according to USDA.

China also brought in 160,000 tonnes of beef in April, up 28% from the previous year. Imports of the meat in the first four months of the year rose 54% to 680,000 tonnes, according to customs data.

Reporting by Dominique Patton and Hallie Gu; Editing by Kim Coghill