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Audio: Update on Meat Demand and Distribution in China/Hong Kong Region

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With more dockworkers and others critical to China/Hong Kong’s food distribution chain now returning from an extended Lunar New Year holiday break, Joel Haggard, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) senior vice president for the Asia Pacific, looks for a growing backlog of imported meat to begin making its way more smoothly into the market.

Haggard notes that China’s meat and poultry imports were record-large in December and remained high in early January prior to the holiday break. This created a major challenge for ports and other distribution channels that were already short-staffed due to the holidays, and the situation was further complicated by the coronavirus outbreak. On the demand side, Haggard says restaurant traffic has been hit hard by coronavirus concerns, but supermarkets in most areas remain busy and well-stocked. He adds that while African swine fever (ASF) is currently receiving little media attention in the region, China still faces a large ASF-induced pork shortage that is likely to keep demand for imported protein at a very high level.

TRANSCRIPT:

Joe Schuele: In this U.S. Meat Export Federation report, Joel Haggard Senior Vice President for the Asia Pacific provides another update on the impact of the coronavirus on meat demand and distribution in the China Hong Kong region.

Joel Haggard: Meat Export Federation staff continue to assess the meat market impacts of the unfolding coronavirus outbreak. Uncertainty among the population prevails, especially as the effected and mortality tolls continue to increase. We are experiencing some supermarket runs, but as of the moment, these runs have tended to be on household cleaning products, large bags of rice, masks of course. We’re not seeing out of stock meat shelves. Meat seems to be available, all species. Our staff in China have been making visits to customer stakeholders including both restaurant and supermarket operators. While food services being severely challenged because of the sharp decline in traffic. Retail is doing well including online. Food supply chains appear to be functioning. There are indeed bottlenecks, but we must also keep in mind that most of the country is still in the lunar new year shutdown mode. Many in the food and meat supply chain have not fully returned to work, and that includes port workers. So that circulation of food and meat would’ve been restrained regardless of the coronavirus. We had on top of that massive imports of meat and poultry in December during the first part of January. And so one could conclude that a goods pile up was all but inevitable anyway. Moving forward with the Chinese leadership calling for normal production, we should see a return of workers that staff the meat supply chain. And although no one seems to be talking about it ASF at the moment, it’s all about the coronavirus, large shortages are still apparent from that outbreak. I was quiet interested to see local pork prices stay so high over the holidays and was so few people venturing out and with food service demand plummeting, it’s just the sign in my mind that this ASF induced pork short fall is still very much with us. So fundamental import and meat demand should continue to be at an unprecedented level.

Joe Schuele: For more information, please visit USMEF.org. For the U.S. Meat Export Federation, I’m Joe Schuele.

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The U.S. Meat Export Federation (www.USMEF.org) is the trade association responsible for developing international markets for the U.S. red meat industry. It is funded by USDA; the beef, pork, lamb, corn and soybean checkoff programs, as well as its members representing nine industry sectors: beef/veal producing & feeding, pork producing & feeding, lamb producing & feeding, packing & processing, purveying & trading, oilseeds producing, feedgrains producing, farm organizations and supply & service organizations. USMEF complies with all equal opportunity, non-discrimination and affirmative action measures applicable to it by contract, government rule or regulation or as otherwise provided by law. USMEF is an equal opportunity employer and provider.