Chinese pigmeat imports could rise to 5 million tonnes a year within the next five years according to development forecasts given to ADHB Pork chair, Meryl Ward, during her recent visit to China, arranged to coincide with the country’s staging of the region’s massive SIAL food fair.
With pigmeat imports into China currently sitting at 2m tonnes/year, the prospect for such a major expansion being achieved was revealed to UK producers by Mrs Ward (pictured above) during a market outlook forum at today’s Pig & Poultry Fair.
“Everybody knows that the Chinese market is very valuable to us,” of course, and that it’s one of our biggest export opportunities,” she said. “What really impressed me during my time in China was the level of prices available. The domestic market over there is ‘on fire’ at present.”
Reporting excellent commercial interest in the British stand at SIAL, of which AHDB Pork was part, Mrs Ward said that while the stand had created the opportunity for business to be done it was still down to processors to take advantage of it.
“They certainly didn’t miss out, however, with no one being allowed to leave the British display without being given a clear presentation of what GB producers can provide.”
When asked later by Pig World to expand on her 5m tonnes projection, the AHDB Pork chair began by admitting that she’d fully expected the level of domestic prices in China to drive home-based output higher, quite quickly.
“China has a five-year development plan, however, which was explained to us when we met the Chinese meat association and the country’s animal association,” she said. “Both organisations talked about aiming for stable production over the next five years, rather than seeking any major increase in output. This appears to be partly due to challenges in the environmental areas and the need to address waste issues.
“That was the context in which the figures floated to us focused on the potential for imports to rise to 5m tonnes in five years. There are all sorts of ifs and buts in that, of course, as production in China will need to remain stable and consumption has to keep rising.
“Judging by the speed of change in the three cities we visited, however, that is certainly possible. The rate of housing development in the country is simply breath-taking, with more and more people moving into the major cities, becoming middle class in the process and increasing their pork consumption.”
Mrs Ward also recounted an online business story from her visit to illustrate the enormous potential of the Chinese market.
“I was talking to one of the biggest online retailers in China who asked me to guess how many customers he had,” she said. “I went for a few million and he replied that the total was 155m, and that he’s including meat in his product range. That’s the level of business opportunity we’re talking about.”
She also added that the online retailer in question was already in conversation with British processors.