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China’s pork output recovers in 2020, beating expectations

Chinese pork output posted a sharp recovery in 2020 after the sector faced ongoing challenges from African swine fever in 2019.

18 January 2021, at 7:07am

Reuters reports that official data shows that China’s pork output fell 3.3 percent from a year earlier to 41.13 million tonnes after plunging 21 percent in 2019.

But some analysts said they had expected a much bigger fall in 2020 after the African swine fever ravaged China's breeding stock in 2019. China's stock had fallen by an estimated 60 percent by mid-2019 after the disease hit China in mid-2018.

The reading is "quite high, higher than I expected. In November, we probably expected a 10-15 percent decline," said Pan Chenjun, senior analyst at Rabobank.

Xiao Lin, analyst at Shenzhen-based Win & Fun Investment also said she had expected a bigger decline of between 5 percent and 10 percent in 2020 output.

Strong policy support and incentives helped revive the sector by unleashing more than 200 billion yuan ($30.87 billion) in investment.

China slaughtered 527.04 million hogs in 2020, the data showed, down 3.2 percent from the same period a year earlier.

Output in the final quarter of 2020 jumped to 13 million tonnes, according to Reuters calculations based on the data. That is up 21 percent from the 10.74 million tonnes produced in the same quarter a year ago and higher than 8.4 million tonnes in the third quarter.

Despite the jump in output, pork prices have risen significantly from the end of November, reaching 47 yuan per kilogramme last week, almost level with a year ago.

"That's the signal that there's a very big shortage," said Pan, adding that demand had not increased significantly.

The data also showed China's pig herd rose to 406.5 million heads at the end of December, from 370.39 million at the end of September.

Beef and lamb output rose slightly in 2020, by 0.8 percent and 1 percent respectively, the data showed, while poultry output grew by 5.5 percent.

($1 = 6.4795 Chinese yuan)

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