China’s demand for pork continues to fall

Last year, China’s pork imports continued to decline. However, there was a slight increase in imports of by-products. The largest delivery volumes for China continued to come from the EU in 2023, but the EU countries are increasingly losing market share to North America.

According to the latest government data, China imported a total of 2.64 million tons of pork and pork by-products in 2023. Compared to 2022, that was a decrease of 5.2%. Import volumes of 4 to 5 million tons from 2020 and 2021 are now a long way off due to the reconstruction of Chinese pig stocks after the ASF crisis there. Of the quantities imported in 2023, 1.54 million t came from the fresh and frozen pork categories and 1.1 million t from the slaughter by-products category. Imports of meat and by-products therefore developed very differently. This meant a decrease of 11.6% for fresh and frozen pork compared to the previous year, while there was an increase of 5.6% for slaughter by-products.

The largest delivery volumes for China continued to come from the EU in 2023. Overall, around half of imports of pork and by-products came from EU countries. The most important supplying countries were Spain with almost 602,000 t, the Netherlands with around 241,000 t and Denmark with around 234,000 t (meat + by-products). However, many EU states again had to accept significant declines in delivery volumes after they had already fallen massively from 2021 to 2022. For example, Denmark delivered around 116,000 t or 33.2% less in 2023 than in 2022 and Spain also had to cope with a significant decline of 88,000 t or 12.7% compared to the already very low level from 2022. Overall, the share of deliveries from the EU in China’s total pork imports (including by-products) shrank from 55.7% in 2022 to 49.4% in 2023.

In contrast, the USA was able to increase its deliveries by 8.7% to 425,000 t, Canada even recorded an increase of 44.2% to 240,000 t. China imported 422,000 t from Brazil in 2023, around 3.7% less than in the previous year. Globally lower pork prices in North and South America are likely to have given countries there an advantage in the competition for the Chinese pork market. This year, Russia is once again among the supply countries for China. After years of negotiations, China has now agreed to the principle of regionalization, so that pork from Russia can now be delivered to China again after the ASF-related ban.