EU pork sales boost to China may be short-lived

Imported pork is still the top meat found in Chinese consumer shopping baskets

EU pig meat producers were big winners in boosting export sales between March 2016 and February 2017, according to the European Commission, with receipts rising by more than 33% compared to the same period last year. 

The EU pigmeat sector earned €5.4 billion (bn) in export earnings from March 2016 to February 2017, €1.35bn more than the same period in the previous year, leading the US and Canada as the second and third most important pigmeat exporters, reported EU statistical agency Eurostat.

Last year the industry saw a big increase in pigmeat demand from China, caused by a temporary drop in production from Chinese farmers,” a European Commission official told GlobalMeatNews. The resulting surge in sales started in March 2016 and although the euro’s value against the Chinese yuan has been increasing, the EU’s exports of pigmeat still grew, especially in the second half of 2016, when sales were 40% above the figures for 2015, explained the Commission’s 2017 short-term outlook report for EU agri-markets.

EU pork export growth

Livestock producers, however, should note that China’s production decline was actually in preparation for a planned major increase, warned the Commission official. A planned modernisation and restructuring of Chinese domestic production have led to the closure of smallholdings, especially those breaching tighter environmental rules. These trends will continue through this year, predicted the Commission, but China “will increase its production in the long term, so that EU exports will not continue to grow like last year”, explained the Commission official.

Assessing the figures, eight EU countries made up 83% of the total production of EU pigmeat from March 2016 to February 2017, with Germany alone producing 24%. In January 2017, Germany exported 11,900 tonnes (t) more pigmeat within the EU and 7,300t more pigmeat to the rest in the rest of the world than it did in January 2016. Germany exported €1.04bn-worth of pigmeat to buyers outside the EU from March 2016 to February 2017. Second-largest overall producer Spain sold even more than Germany outside the EU, with €1.23bn-worth of pigmeat being exported outside member states. The six next largest producers were France, Poland, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Jean-Luc Mériaux, secretary general of the European Livestock and Meat Trading Union (UECBV) said: “Other Asian markets are also improving, such as Japan, South Korea and Vietnam. At the same time, EU pork is gaining market share in Australia, Canada, South Africa and the USA.

According to Mériaux EU pigmeat prices have recently increased and supplies have become less competitive overseas, but it is yet early to assess to impact.

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