China's overseas purchases and imports of pork and pork products in calendar year 2008 were unprecedented for any single country in history, according to U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) calculations from just-released Chinese trade data.
Based on import totals from China and Hong Kong, the country imported 1.925 million metric tons or 4.2 billion pounds, of pork and pork products last year, including 1.161 million tons or nearly 2.6 billion pounds, of pork variety meats and 764,000 tons or 1.7 billion pounds, of pork cuts.
Available trade data suggests that China's imports eclipsed the previous single-year record of 1.022 million tons or 2.2 billion pounds, of pork imported by Japan in 2005.
Although final data for 2008 is not yet in, USMEF estimates that total U.S. Pork and pork product exports to China and Hong Kong reached 386,000 tons or 851 million pounds, valued at nearly $700 million in 2008. The EU and Brazil were the other major pork suppliers to the region.
Joel Haggard, senior vice president of USMEF's Asia Pacific region believes it is unlikely that China's pork imports this year will match last year's record. Increased industry profitability last spring, coupled with a range of hog raising subsidies, has resulted in a substantial expansion of China's herd, and lower hog and pork prices.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, by the end of the third quarter of 2008, China's live hog inventory had increased 6.6% from the year-earlier figure, and the sow population increased 12.4%. Total marketed hogs increased 5.8% and meat production was up approximately 6%.