UPDATE 1-China July pork imports hit record 430,000 tonnes

(Adds details, analyst’s quotes)

Aug 24 (Reuters) - China’s July pork imports more than doubled to 430,000 tonnes from a year earlier and hit a record monthly volume, customs data showed, despite tough new checks on cargoes that had slowed clearing at ports.

Chinese importers have been bringing in huge volumes of meat this year to fill a large domestic supply shortage after an epidemic of African swine fever killed millions of pigs.

However the data, released late on Sunday, came as a surprise after many overseas processing plants were forced to halt or slow production in the prior months due to coronavirus infections among workers.

The data does not reveal the origins of the shipments but a meat industry source, who declined to be identified, said June exports to China from major suppliers including the United States, Brazil, European Union and Canada had all declined compared to the prior month.

The July import number surpassed June’s 400,000 tonnes, which had been the highest ever.

“Considering the U.S. and Europe had suspensions or slower production in May, that’s really incredible,” said Pan Chenjun, senior analyst at Rabobank.

China has asked overseas plants since June to suspend shipments if they experience coronavirus cases among workers, even though most experts say there is no evidence to show the virus can be transmitted through food.

Beijing also started coronavirus checks for frozen food containers, which slowed meat cargo clearing at ports.

Domestic pork prices remain high, and rose in early July to 51.17 yuan ($7.40) per kilogramme PORK-CN-TOT-D, the highest since February.

January to July pork imports reached 2.56 million tonnes, up from just over 1 million tonnes a year ago.

Imports of pork including offal in July came to 560,000 tonnes, bringing total imports for this year to end-July to 3.38 million tonnes, the data also showed.

Beef imports in July came to 210,000 tonnes, according to customs, with shipments for the first seven months reaching 1.2 million tonnes.

$1 = 6.9190 Chinese yuan renminbi Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Kim Coghill and Rashmi Aich