China Q1 pork output at highest in five years

Output rose 1.9% from a year earlier
calendar icon 18 April 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

China's first-quarter pork output rose 1.9% from a year earlier to 15.9 million tonnes, the highest quarter in five years, after farmers sold off pigs because of a surge in disease outbreaks, reported Reuters.

A spike in infections of African swine fever earlier this year forced many farms in the world's top pork producer to cull pigs, pushing up slaughter numbers.

China slaughtered 198.99 million hogs in the quarter, up 1.7% from the same period a year earlier, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed on Tuesday.

Pork output was the highest since the fourth quarter of 2017.

The pig herd, though 2% higher than the same period a year earlier, contracted from the prior quarter's 452.56 million heads to 430.94 million, the data also showed.

"It's not a big surprise. In Q1 there were a lot of liquidations due to disease," said Pan Chenjun, senior analyst at Rabobank.

Major hog producer New Hope Liuhe 000876.SZ told investors in late March that a "relatively large" number of sows in northern China's Henan and other provinces had been culled since December, and that the mortality rate of weaned piglets also increased in the first quarter.

Pork output also rose after many farmers expected a recovery in demand during the fourth quarter of 2022 and raised hogs to heavier weights to benefit from anticipated high prices.

When demand slumped due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, farmers rushed to offload pigs ahead of the Lunar New Year festival in late January, normally the peak demand season.

Hog prices are hovering at low levels since the start of the year under pressure from the high slaughter volume. They fell further this month, reaching 14.6 yuan ($2.12) per kg in the major producing province of Henan this week.

Farmers there are losing about 176 yuan per head, and prices may not pick up until the end of the second quarter or third quarter, said Pan. 

($1 = 6.8742 Chinese yuan renminbi)

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