In September 2015, volumes of exported pork grew by 18% – or 166,300 tonnes (t) – compared to September 2014, with China alone shipping in 60,000t of EU pork.
This was 13,000t more than August’s recorded figures and China now represents 37% of exported pork product in the EU, according to the data from AHDB Pork.
So, what’s the reason for growing demand in China for Europe’s pork?
“There has been big decline in the Chinese pig market over the last year, driven by pork profitability. Lots of small farmers in China have reacted to prices and, when profitability is poor, you have a dropout in the fall of the herd, said AHDB analyst Stephen Howarth.
China prices 'pushed up'
“Last year, in particular, they [China] were struggling because pig prices were low and feed prices were well above the market level. We saw a dropout in breeding herds and that has pushed prices up in China, which has created a demand for imports.”
Excluding China, exports to all other markets fell -8% compared to September 2014.
And after Europe’s pig market was described as being in a “critical” condition by farming bodies Copa and Cogeca, China is an important ally for exports of European pig meat.
They are “certainly very important”, said Howarth, who added: “The balance of imports shifts over time and right now China is the main importer driving growth as that’s where the demand is.”
“Quite a lot of the other importers – like Japan – have taken a bit less [pork than before] and, on an annual basis, Japan has seen the biggest drop in pork prices.”
Other markets to record a drop in pork exports included Australia, Hong Kong, the Philippines and South Korea.
Separate data from AHDB Pork revealed offal had seen a strong rise in China, with an annual increase of 9%. Sales were up 28% after 56,100t of offal was shipped to China.