China imports more meat

BEIJING, China (Reuters) — China imported 9.91 million tonnes of meat in 2020, recent customs data showed, as the world’s biggest consumer of meat stocked up on proteins after a further plunge in its pork output.

Shipments were up 60.4 percent on the year before and came after China’s output of pork, its staple meat, slumped 19 percent in the first half. That followed an even bigger drop during 2019 when the fatal pig disease African swine fever ravaged its vast hog herd.

China’s General Administration of Customs only began releasing monthly data for all meats combined last year but the 2020 total is believed by industry analysts to be a record.

“It’s definitely a record. All the species hit records last year,” said Pan Chenjun, senior analyst at Rabobank.

Imports of pork from the United States, China’s largest supplier, rose 223.8 percent in yuan terms in 2020, customs spokesperson Liu Kuiwen told reporters at a briefing.

Testing of imported chilled foods for the novel coronavirus during the second half of 2020 slowed imports but arrivals still kept up a healthy pace.

December imports jumped 24 percent from the 775,000 tonnes brought in the previous month to 964,000 tonnes, close to the monthly record hit in July 2020, as buyers stocked up for the peak consumption season during the upcoming lunar New Year.

Domestic pork prices slumped during October but began rising strongly again at the end of November on growing demand, making cheaper imported meat more attractive.

But aggressive restocking of China’s pig farms last year will lead to pork production growth of about 10 percent in 2021, according to a Rabobank forecast, pushing imports of the meat down by as much as 30 percent year on year.

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