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China's appetite for EU's pork is growing

By BO LEUNG | China Daily UK | Updated: 2017-02-16 18:07

European farmers benefitted from a doubling of pork exports to China in 2016, according to an official industry organization.

Countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and Denmark led the list of exporters.

The UK's Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board noted that global pork shipments to the world's second-largest economy reached 1.6 million metric tons.

The board cited the restructuring of the Chinese pig industry as the main reason for the increase in hunger for the product.

The European Union supplied around two-thirds of China's imported pork.

"This was particularly true early in 2016, driven by plentiful supplies, competitive prices and hormone-free production systems," said Bethan Wilkins, an analyst at the board.

But EU farmers are likely to see increasing competition from the United States and Brazil in future. After gaining increased access to the Chinese market, Brazil became its eighth-largest pork supplier last year.

Shipments of pig meat from the UK to China shot up last year, reaching 43,000 tons-a rise of 31 percent compared to 2015. Pig meat refers to various cuts and products, as opposed the whole pig carcass.

"Higher pig prices in China enabled average unit prices to rise," said Wilkins. "So, the value of these imports was up ahead of volume, almost reaching 50 million pounds ($62 million).

Offal imports were up 72 percent to 1.3 million tons worldwide, while the EU remained the dominant supplier. Offal shipments from the UK were up 32 percent, but volumes exported during the final quarter were 9 percent lower than they were in the same period in 2015. The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board said this was due to increased competition from the US and because of falling UK production.

In the coming year, the board expects Chinese domestic production to increase, which will reduce demand for imports.

Wilkins said: "This will be a concern for the global pork market, as China has been a key outlet in a background of lackluster demand for pig meat in Europe and the US. Unless alternative markets can be found, a fall in demand from China could begin to put pressure on global pork prices this year, particularly in light of the expansion in US production."

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