UK export prospects look good as Chinese herd numbers show 15% fall

Latest figures from the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, showing that in March 2015 the country’s sow herd numbered 40.4m, a decline of 15% on the year, could be good news for global exporters, including the UK, according to BPEX.

With much of the numbers fall being from backyard producers and small farms, rather than China’s more efficient commercial units, the fall in pigmeat production won’t be as dramatic as minus 15%. Output is expected to fall this year, however, with BPEX concluding that this will “create an opportunity for exporters with access to China”.

“This opportunity may be greater still given reports that the Chinese government is cracking down on smuggling of meat into the country,” said BPEX, pointing out that China imported 564,000 tonnes of pork and 814,000 tonnes of pig offal last year.

“With most of this involving products with little value elsewhere, this trade is important for exporters looking to maximise carcase values.”

In that context, nearly two thirds of pork and over half of the offal imported into China was sourced from the EU, with the UK playing its part on the process.

“Last year, the UK was the sixth largest supplier of pork to China and the ninth largest supplier of pig offal, with market shares of 5% and 2% respectively,” said BPEX. “This emphasises how important the Chinese market is to the UK industry.

“Even in the first quarter of 2015, there were signs that Chinese imports were starting to pick up. During these three months, shipments were up 6% year on year, to 150,000 tonnes. This represents the highest first quarter figure on record. With shipments typically picking up in the second half year, when domestic supplies are set to be at their tightest, this adds weight to forecasts of a strong year for imports.”

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