Key Topic – China Pork Access

China – Since July 1, 2014, pork exports to China have been subject to new ractopamine control requirements. Under these requirements, products must be produced under one of two programs listed in the Export Library and must comply with all new requirements.

While China’s ractopamine-free requirements for pork are not new, this marked the first time U.S. exporters have been required to show that products presented for export are ractopamine-free in order to obtain an export certificate. In early August, 2014, China delisted a number of U.S. plants for ractopamine violations on pork produced before July 1, 2014, leaving very few U.S. plants eligible for export. U.S. pork/pork variety meat exports to China fell significantly in the second half of 2014, finishing the year more than one-third lower than in 2013. In 2015, several plant relistings (see below) helped U.S. exports to China rebound.

In the fourth quarter of 2015 and early 2016, several additional processing plants and cold storage facilities were cleared to begin shipments to China, provided that the products meet China’s eligibility requirements. Due in part to these relistings and a decline in China’s domestic production, U.S. pork exports to the China/Hong Kong region in 2016 were up 59 percent from the previous year in volume (544,943 metric tons) and 52 percent higher in value ($1.074 billion), but monthly pork muscle cut volumes moderated in the second half of 2016 as China’s domestic production rebounded. This trend continued through 2017, though pork variety meat exports to the region remained strong. The China/Hong Kong region is the largest destination for U.S. pork variety meat, with 2017 exports up 2 percent in volume to 321,116 metric tons. The value of these exports climbed 16 percent year-over-year to $741.8 million, as variety meat exports to China/Hong Kong accounted for an average of $6.12 per U.S. hog slaughtered.

In the first quarter of 2018, China’s rising domestic hog production and falling prices cooled demand for imported pork and U.S. export volume to China/Hong Kong slowed 15 percent from a year ago. However, first-quarter export value still increased slightly to $260.7 million. China’s additional 25 percent tariff on imports of U.S. pork, imposed in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, took effect April 2 and therefore any trade impact was not reflected in the first-quarter results. April export data will be available in early June.