What – no growth in Chinese pork imports?

The CEOs of pork processors and farmer organizations are fond of saying that there are big opportunities for pigmeat exporters to China. But do the numbers support this claim? No, they don’t – not without some big qualifications anyway.  If we look at the recent trade statistics for China we can see that there has been virtually no growth in China’s imports of pigmeat in the last four years – and there has been a vicious fight for market share by the exporters who have sold their pigmeat products in the Chinese market in this period.

Chinese pigmeat imports (‘000 kg)

2011

1,350,326

2012

1,359,645

2013

1,396,488

2014

1,371,074

Source: USMEF

If you look at the trade data after 2011, the demand for foreign-sourced pigmeat from the Chinese has been relatively constant. Imports have swung wildly on a monthly basis but the trend line since then is quite flat—this may surprise some people when all the talk from industry leaders is of the huge opportunities in the Chinese market. The charts shown here illustrate the big changes in the breakdown of Chinese pigmeat imports in recent years. Chinese total importsUS suppliers have been in retreat whilst European and other suppliers have held their share or increased it. Note also that these changes were underway before the Russian trade ban on European pigmeat in mid 2014 and the emerging weakness of the euro compared to the US dollar. Since 2011 the USA’s share of Chinese imported pigmeat has dropped from around 60% to around 28% in 2014. In contrast the Danes and Germans have held their share of the Chinese market at around 16% and 9% respectively. This suggests that these changes in market shares are not just driven by currency effects.

Chinese sources of imports

 

You can read more about my analysis of the demand for imported pigmeat in China in the June issue of Whole Hog Brief but for now the message I would leave you with is that the Chinese demand for foreign pork and pigmeat is extremely competitive – and, for the last four years, has not grown significantly.