Pig breeding in China is tackling a new restructuring stage, which may well provide opportunities for European Union exports to the country. It all started with the application of more stringent environmental standards, which effectively slowed down the replenishment of stock breeding pigs.
Initial estimates for 2017, reported on the specialist 3tre3.it website, indicate 'a reduction of 12% to 38 million head. This reduction will affect pork production in 2017 by cutting domestic output to 51 million tonnes'. The pig population in 2017 is expected to fall by 3.6 million head.
This means imports will probably be needed to offset - even if only partially - the fall in production. China is currently the largest importer of pork in the world. Analysts suggest that this would also have an impact on prices and consumption. The report published by the US Department of Agriculture estimates an increase in list prices and a downturn in pork consumption, with output falling by '2.6 million tonnes, from 55.8 millions to 53.2 millions'.
The change of direction in China was set in motion last year, when the Ministry of Agriculture in Beijing announced the XIII five-year plan for agriculture with a focus on environmental safeguards, thereby demonstrating that sustainability is by now an acknowledged value world-wide.
As a result, breeding centres will be gradually moved away from waterways and the most populated areas of China, through the creation controlled development zones. The north-east part of China, considered to be the country's corn belt, is a candidate for the most significant growth in animal faming, not the least in view of benefits based on lower costs for feed transport and wastewater management.
The potential for European pig meat exports, net of the fall in consumption envisaged in the USDA report, remains high. It is no coincidence that Spain recently organized an information day during which the Ministry of Agriculture and Interporc representing sector operators explained in detail the requirements China expects Spanish producers to meet in order to export their pork and derivatives to the Asian market.
In 2016, Spanish exports of fresh and cured pork to China increased in volume by 47%.
Opportunities for penetration by quality products in China are also high for the macro pig breeding region in the North, which recently earned export accreditation.