China’s 2020 pork output higher than expected

Reported slowing of ASF-induced decline beats expectations

File photo of piglets at a hog operation in China. (KuLouKu/iStock/Getty Images)

Beijing | Reuters — China’s pork output posted significant signals toward recovery last year after the sector was decimated by an incurable hog disease in 2019, official data showed Monday.

China’s 2020 pork output fell 3.3 per cent from a year earlier, to 41.13 million tonnes, after plunging 21 per cent in 2019, the National Bureau of Statistics said.

But some analysts said they had expected a much bigger fall in 2020 after African swine fever (ASF) ravaged China’s breeding stock in 2019. China’s stock had fallen by an estimated 60 per cent 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 per cent 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 five and 10 per cent in 2020 output.

Policy support and incentives helped revive the sector by unleashing more than 200 billion yuan (C$39.3 billion) in investment.

China slaughtered 527.04 million hogs in 2020, the data showed, down 3.2 per cent 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 per cent 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 (C$9.23) per kg 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 head 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 and one per cent respectively, the data showed, while poultry output grew by 5.5 per cent.

— Dominique Patton is an agriculture and commodities correspondent for Reuters in Beijing.

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