In the last 13 months, one of the world’s largest pork consumers, China, has been grappling with losing millions of its pigs to African Swine Fever. As a result, a country that is known to harbor half the world’s pig population now has no choice but to rely on foreign markets for their staple cusine.
One of those markets includes the US, but increasing pork production in America to stabilize China’s pig crisis could come at a price for US consumers. China’s demand for either whole or half carcasses as well as ham will likely make resources scarce, leading to a shortage in pork bellies, ham and other pig products for Americans in 2020, Arnold Silver, Smithfield Foods’ director of raw materials told Bloomberg.
The Chinese “are insatiable in their appetite for pork,” said Silver at the Urner Barry Global Protein Summit in Chicago. Despite this, Smithfield — the largest global pork producer — claims it will prioritize US customers before it starts advancing to the Chinese market.
China still has its retaliatory tariffs in place against US pork, but if the duties are lifted the demand could increase even further.
But this isn’t stopping China from purchasing more overseas; last week, Reuters reported China increased its purchases of US pork before trade talks in Washington between President Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.
Although China’s duties are still intact, US pork exports are expected to increase by 12 percent in 2019 and 14 percent in 2020, according to Bloomberg, who cited the US Meat Export Federation.
However, an open market could be on the horizon. According to Agweb, last Friday, Trump agreed to remove tariff hikes on Chinese imports that were scheduled for October 15. In return, China agreed to purchase $40 to $50 billion dollars worth of US farm products — with the majority being US pork and soybeans — and also agreed to some agricultural concessions. According to Trump, the “phase one” deal will be finalized in writing over the next five weeks.
This is welcome news for the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), who expressed their excitement about the recently suspended retaliatory tariffs with China, claiming increased pork exports will help with the trade imbalance between the two nations.
“With African swine fever dramatically reducing domestic production, the United States is well-positioned to meet China’s need for safe, nutritious and affordable pork and to manage an emerging food price inflation challenge,” NPPC says. “In doing so, US pork can single-handedly put a huge dent in the United States’ trade imbalance with China.”
As of now, trade relations between the two economies still remain unclear, but if one thing is for certain, pork will always remain a traditional food item in Chinese culture and US farmers can expect to reap the benefits of this country’s love for pork as long as swine fever lasts in Asia.