China’s Pork Industry: Looking Forward

China’s status as a major pork importer will likely continue to grow, forecast Fred Gale, Daniel Marti and Dinghuan Hu in the final part of their report entitled ‘China’s Volatile Pork Industry’ from the USDA Economic Research Service.
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China’s tradition of self-sufficiency in pork will be hard to maintain as feed costs rise and as land for expanding farms and processing facilities becomes scarce and expensive. The environmental and food safety impacts of producing large numbers of hogs in China will become more apparent. Interregional shipments of pork within China are limited by lack of reliable transportation and temperature-controlled storage.

Stricter regulatory enforcement in the United States, greater investments in animal housing and manure handling, wider dissemination of technical expertise, and closer coordination between producers and processing companies help US farmers produce pork with less of an impact on the environment, fewer food safety incidents, and fewer disease outbreaks than in China. Demand from China raises the value of variety meats and offal that are not widely used as food in the US market.

Chinese restaurant chains, hotels, and other buyers who demand pork with high and consistent quality are important potential customers for imported pork (Fabiosa et al., 2005). With diversifying consumer tastes and growing segmentation in the market, imported pork can coexist in the Chinese market with domestic grain-fed pork and meat from local pig breeds.21

Strong resistance to pork imports in China can disrupt trade and affect exporters. China lowered tariffs on pork after its accession to the World Trade Organization, but pork imports still face resistance similar to that described by Hayes and Clemens (1997). Evidence of this can be seen among the policy responses listed in the Chinese ‘hog price alert’ programme, which include unspecified ‘limits’ on imported pork to reduce the market supply and ‘encouragement’ of pork exports. When Chinese pork prices were soaring in 2007, officials made announcements to assure the public that China would not import large amounts of pork (Xinhua, 2007).22

In June 2010 (after China lifted its H1N1-related ban on US pork), an article entitled Be on Guard! American Pork’s ’Soybean Appetite’ warned that imports could eat up China’s pork industry if the industry was not protected (Li, 2009). An analyst quoted in the article cautioned readers to ‘Be careful of the trap set by the Americans’” warning that if US pork imports are not limited, the pork industry ‘is likely to repeat the mistakes of the soybean industry with disastrous consequences’.23

Similarly, Liu (2010) reported that Chinese officials were wary of foreign investment in the pork industry because officials feared losing “guidance power” over the industry.


21Many supermarkets and specialty retail shops in China offer pork from local pig breeds. The appeal of this pork, generally sold at premium prices, is its stronger flavour and purported health benefits.

22Articles from official media included assurances that imported pork was purchased mainly by hotels, that imports would not affect the market, and that China has free trade in pork but also a strict inspection and quarantine system.

23This refers to China’s high reliance on soybean imports.

References for Full Report

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Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

April 2012
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