BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s pork output fell less than expected last year as it recovered from the impact of an incurable hog disease that depleted breeding stock, official data showed on Monday.
China’s 2020 pork output declined by 3.3% from a year earlier to 41.13 million tonnes after plunging 21% in 2019, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said.
Some analysts expected a bigger fall in 2020 after an outbreak of African swine fever hit China in mid-2018 and meant the country’s breeding stock had declined an estimated 60% by mid-2019.
The 2020 reading is “quite high, higher than I expected. In November, we probably expected a 10-15% decline,” said Pan Chenjun, senior analyst at Rabobank.
Xiao Lin, analyst at Shenzhen-based Win & Fun Investment, also said she had expected a decline of between 5% and 10% in 2020 output.
Strong policy support and incentives helped revive the sector by unleashing more than 200 billion yuan ($30.87 billion) in investment.
China slaughtered 527.04 million hogs in 2020, the data showed, down 3.2% from the same period a year earlier.
Output in the final quarter jumped to 13 million tonnes, Reuters calculations showed. That is up 21% from 10.74 million tonnes a year earlier and higher than 8.4 million tonnes in the third quarter.
Pork prices have still risen significantly since end-November, reaching 47 yuan per kg last week, almost level with a year ago.
“That’s the signal that there’s a very big shortage,” said Pan, adding demand had not increased significantly.
The data also showed China’s pig herd rose to 406.5 million heads at end-2020, from 370.39 million at the end of September.
Customs data on Monday showed China imported a record 4.39 million tonnes of pork in 2020 to plug a domestic shortage, with December arrivals surging 63.1% year-on-year to 440,000 tonnes.
Overall meat imports in 2020 were close to 10 million tonnes.
Beef and lamb output rose slightly in 2020, by 0.8% and 1% respectively, the NBS data showed, while poultry output grew 5.5%.
($1 = 6.4795 Chinese yuan)
Reporting by Dominique Patton; additional reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Ana Nicolaci da Costa and Barbara Lewis
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