China's October pork imports double on year

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s pork imports in October doubled from a year earlier, as wholesalers stocked up on supplies after disease decimated the huge hog herd, customs data showed on Saturday.

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

October arrivals came to 177,426 tonnes, up from the previous month’s 161,836 tonnes.

Pork imports for the first ten months of the year stood at 1.5 million tonnes, up 49.4% from the corresponding period a year earlier, data from the General Administration of Customs shows.

The data is for muscle cuts and does not include offal and other non-muscle parts known as ‘variety meats’.

Deadly African swine fever has reduced the world’s top pig herd by 41%, according to official data, after spreading throughout China and leaving many farmers unwilling to replenish their farms.

The slump in the herd pushed retail pork prices by late October up 148% from a year earlier, to almost 59 yuan ($8.38) per kg, causing food inflation to spike.

China has been opening up its market to new sources of meat, approving dozens of new pork processing plants in Brazil, Argentina and Britain in recent months to help alleviate its protein shortage.

It received its first cargo of Italian pork this week, customs said on its website, while Argentina shipped its first boatload of chilled pork to China.

In the United States, top processor Smithfield has transformed a slaughterhouse to ship pig carcasses to China.

Imports of beef, usually more expensive than pork, are also benefiting from the meat shortage, with October arrivals at 150,829 tonnes, up 63.2% on a year ago..

For the first ten months, beef imports were 1.28 million tonnes, a jump of 54.5% from a year ago, customs said. Beef shipments are also growing, thanks to rising demand from China’s expanding middle class.

Chicken meat imports have also jumped, with October shipments at 66,921 tonnes, up 64% on the year.

Reporting by Dominique Patton and Muyu Xu; Editing by Clarence Fernandez