China/Hong Kong’s Beef Imports Remain Strong; Pork Imports Approaching Record Levels of 2011

In October, combined China/Hong Kong beef/beef variety meat imports slowed from the previous three months but were still up 69 percent from a year ago at 86,583 mt. Imports were larger from all main suppliers, including Brazil (27,831 mt, +26 percent), Australia (19,989 mt, +201 percent), the United States (15,565 mt, +82 percent) and Uruguay (6,002 mt, +149 percent).


January-October imports totaled 831,018 mt, up 110 percent from the same period last year, with trends for individual suppliers similar to those seen in October: Brazil (318,368 mt, +65 percent), Australia (153,409 mt, +316 percent), the United States (101,704 mt, +102 percent) and Uruguay (74,358 mt, +231 percent).

The United States and Brazil still do not have access to China, so all import activity is limited to Hong Kong. Australia, Uruguay, New Zealand, and Canada are benefiting from direct access to China, with India scheduled to conduct beef access technical talks with China later this month. Examined separately, China’s imports through October were up 562 percent to 253,196 mt, while Hong Kong’s imports were up 61 percent to 577,822 mt. China’s beef prices averaged $4.64 per pound in early December, still edging higher and up 21 percent from a year ago. China is expected to continue to import more beef, as consumption grows from relatively low levels and domestic production cannot keep pace.


Combined China/Hong Kong pork/pork variety meat imports in October were up 23 percent to 145,000 mt (this total is from all suppliers, after subtracting Hong Kong re-exports and Hong Kong’s imports from China). Compared to October 2012, imports from the U.S. were higher for both China (32,841 mt, +23 percent) and Hong Kong (8,687 mt, +59 percent).

For January through October, total pork imports from all suppliers were up 3 percent to 645,218 mt, while pork variety meat imports were up 11 percent to 744,847 mt. The combined pork/pvm total was 1.39 million mt, up 7 percent from a year ago and on pace to potentially surpass the record levels of 2011.


China’s live hog prices continued to move higher in early December at $1.19 per pound, up 4 percent from a year ago. Chinese New Year demand is adding fuel to hog prices, which is similar to last year’s trend when hog prices moved higher through December and January before peaking at $1.26 per pound at the end of January. Higher prices should stimulate larger imports over the next two months (imports also peaked in January 2013 at 184,464 mt), so there should be plenty of upside for exports in January 2014 if China’s prices continue to outpace last year’s levels. Wholesale prices for pork variety meat have also moved higher, indicating strong demand.

(Sources: Import data from Global Trade Atlas, price data from China’s Ministry of Agriculture and USMEF-Beijing.)