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USDA forecasts reduction in global pork production

22nd Jan 2020 / By Alistair Driver

The USDA is forecasting a 9% reduction in pork production to 96.4 million tonnes in 2020, as China and much of Asia continues to battle with African swine fever (ASF).

The latest forecast is, in fact, a slight upwards revision of 1.2% from the USDA’s previous forecast, due to an upward revision of almost 4% for Chinese production on the back of heavier carcase weights, encouraged by higher prices and slightly higher slaughter.

USDA forecastsNonetheless, Chinese production is still expected to be 23% lower than in 2019, which was itself 14% down on 2018. This substantial decline cannot be compensated by growth elsewhere.

Most of the major pork exporters are forecast to show growth, capitalising on the increasing demand from Asian nations affected by ASF. However, while production in the US and Brazil is forecast to rise by 4% and 5% respectively, more modest growth of just 1% is forecast in the EU.

Importantly, Chinese pork imports, which have already been driving a strong global pork market for some time, are expected to grow by a further 42% to reach 3.7m tonnes this year.  

The EU is expected to remain the major supplier, with Brazil, Canada and the US also expected to increase shipments to China this year, according to AHDB analyst Felicity Rusk. Overall EU exports are forecast to rise by 7% to 3.9m tonnes.

China update

Meanwhile, newly-released data from Beijing's National Bureau of Statistics show China's pork output fell by more than a fifth in 2019, according to the Just Food website.

In 2019, China produced 42.6m tonnes of pork, a drop of nearly 22% on 2018, the data showed. The number of pigs slaughtered was also down nearly 22% to 544.2 million head. According to the NBS, China's pig herd stood at 310.4m head in 2019, a 27.5% decrease from a year earlier.

However, the figures showed there had been a slight recovery in pig numbers in the final quarter of 2019 – the herd stood at nearly 307m head at the end of September.  

The figures also show how other sectors have partially compensated for the pork deficit. China's total annual output of pork, beef, sheep and poultry fell by 10% to 76.5 million tonnes, but beef production rose 3.6% to 6.7m tonnes, while poultry output increases 12.3% to 22.4m tonnes.

As well as importing more pork, Beijing has released more than 200,000 tonnes of frozen pork from state reserves since early December to try and make up for the deficit.

China’s agriculture minister Han Changfu has urged the Chinese authorities to prevent a recurrence in ASF, Reuters reports.

In a statement on the ministry’s website on Monday, he said the ASF situation was stable in 2019, and control and prevention measures against the deadly disease were effective. Relevant departments must work to achieve this year’s pig production recovery goal, he added. He urged the authorities to strengthen on-the-ground checks of the data on pig production and make sure the data is reliable.