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China's pork imports to stay high until 2025

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China’s pork imports will remained elevated until at least 2025 as the country’s pig industry recovers from the African swine fever epidemic, with extra poultry and, especially, plant-based meat also needed to fill the protein void.

 

China pork imports, after hitting 3.1m-3.3m tonnes this year, will soar above 4m tonnes in 2020 as China fills the void in domestic output caused by the disease, said Rabobank, signalling the potential for a 4.6m-tonne result.

 

“Pork meat imports will likely reach 2.3m-2.6m tonnes [in 2020], while offal imports reach 1.5m-2m tonnes,” the bank said.

 

And buy-ins will remain strong even up to 2025, as Chinese herd is rebuilt after more than halving, to a little over 200m head, since the African swine fever outbreak was first confirmed in August last year.

 

‘Rising production costs’

“It will likely take around five years of restocking for the whole farming sector to recover,” the bank said.

 

“The average level of imports between 2021-25 will stay high, at around 3m tonnes, including offal.”

 

Pork imports will also be helped by price competitiveness, given the raised investment faced by China’s industry as, post-ASF, it centres on larger-scale producers better able to guard against the disease.

 

China’s own industry will see “rising production costs due to better equipment and better biosecurity”.

 

Plant-based alternatives

However, it is not just pork exporters to China which will continue to benefit from the hangover of the ASF epidemic, but producers of other proteins too.

 

China’s beef imports soared by 54% in the first eight months of this year, with poultry imports up 51%.

 

And the bank forecast China’s own poultry output growing “by over 10%” in 2019, while expected to expand “even faster in 2020”.

 

Indeed, “the market value of other proteins, including plant protein, will increase strongly until 2025”.

 

The bank saw the fastest growth the market for plant protein, “which includes various beans and other plant proteins, [and is] estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 8% in the coming five years”.

 

Feed needs

Rabobank was also sanguine on feed groups, saying that the rebuilding of China’s pork sector around larger industrialised units, rather than small-scale farms, meant that “commercial feed penetration is increasing”.

 

The bank forecast Chinese hog feed use growing by 5% next year, “much higher than pork production growth”, while expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 6% to 2025.

 

Growth in other meat sectors, such as poultry, will boost feed needs too.

 

In fact, the hog feed sector itself will not recover to pre-ASF levels, with pork seen losing some market share permanently.

 

“Even after disease impacts stabilise in five years, we don’t expect the total herd size to return to the previous level (430m head in 2018), as part of the market share will be permanently lost to other proteins.”

 

The bank forecast the herd in 2025 at a little over 400m head.

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