China June pork imports surge 62.8% from a year earlier

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s pork imports in June surged from the previous year, customs data showed on Tuesday, as the world’s top consumer of the meat stocked up on supplies after African swine fever has decimated domestic pig herds.

FILE PHOTO: A staff member lifts a pork slice with tongs at a supermarket in Handan, Hebei province, China June 12, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

China brought in 160,467 tonnes of pork in June, up 62.8% from the same month last year, according to data from the General Administration of Customs. This was down 14% from 187,459 tonnes imported in May. CNC-PORK-IMP

The increase comes as the deadly African swine fever disease spreads across the world’s top pig herd, slashing output and pushing prices of the country’s favorite meat up.

China’s pork imports for the first six months of the year came in at 818,703 tonnes, up 26.3% from a year earlier.

China’s wholesale pork prices rose rapidly in the first-half of March, triggering large purchases of meat from overseas markets, including the United States. They have been rising rapidly again in recent weeks, with China’s average wholesale pork prices rising 36.4% from a year earlier to 23.76 yuan ($3.45) per kg as of July 19.

Retail pork prices have also increased in recent weeks but at a slower pace than whole sale prices, with prices up 34.6% from a year earlier at 27.29 yuan per kg as of July 10.

Meanwhile, China’s first-half pork output fell less-than-expected, declining 5.5% to 24.7 million tonnes of pork, as it tackled the devastating disease.

China’s agriculture ministry is investigating local veterinary authorities in 10 provinces as it tries to slow the ongoing spread of the deadly African swine fever virus.

African swine fever kills almost all pigs it infects but does not harm people. There is no vaccine or cure.

But many outbreaks go unreported, farmers have told Reuters, with local officials in some provinces unwilling to verify or report the disease.

Reporting by Hallie Gu and Shivani Singh; editing by Christian Schmollinger