Will China Meat Consumption Rebound in 2021?

(Taoqi Shao)

Driven by higher estimates for pork, the China total meat import forecasts for both 2020 and 2021 are revised 4% and 1% higher, respectively, according to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Livestock and Poultry World Markets and Trade report. Although pork import growth slowed in the fourth quarter of 2020, it exceeded expectations and results in a more bullish outlook for 2021.

“The impact of African swine fever (ASF) is expected to have reached its zenith in 2020, pressuring consumption and increasing the country’s reliance on meat imports,” the report said.

Even with the elevated pace of trade, China meat consumption fell to its lowest level in more than a decade last year. In 2021, higher estimates for both China pork production and imports lead total meat consumption up 2% from the prior forecast, the report noted. Still, total meat consumption is expected to be below pre-ASF levels.

Global pork production for 2021 is revised up nearly 2% to 103.8 million tons due to the Chinese hog sector’s continued recovery from ASF. 

High pork prices continue to incentivize Chinese producers to expand their herds, resulting in the production forecast for China being revised 5% higher. But experts believe China production will still remain below pre-ASF levels due to rising costs and animal management challenges. 

Global pork exports for 2021 are revised up nearly 3% to 11.1 million tons on China import demand that, while lower year-over-year, is expected to remain elevated by historical standards, the report said.

“Abundant exportable supplies around the world are expected to find a home in China as consumption in this key market continues to be well below pre-ASF levels. Meanwhile, a weak peso and sluggish domestic economy lead to lower import expectations for Mexico,” the report said.

Global beef production for 2021 is slightly lower at 61.2 million tons due to declines in China and the U.S., the report said. China is revised down 3% to 6.7 million tons due to lower than expected production in 2020. Meanwhile, global beef exports are unchanged for 2021 at 10.8 million tons. 

"Asia demand remains robust and the supply forecast for most major exporters is unchanged," the report highlighted.

Global chicken meat production is revised 1% lower in 2021 to 101.8 million tons driven by sharp declines in the EU and China. In addition to weaker domestic demand and higher grain prices, the EU is battling widespread Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreaks. The report said China chicken meat demand is growing but at a slower rate as the swine herd recovers and pork production rebounds.

Chicken meat exports for 2021 are down nearly 1% globally to 12.1 million tons. Lower EU, Thailand and Brazil exports will be offset by gains in the U.S. The outlook for China imports remains unchanged.

Read more:

USMEF Audio: Rebound in Western Hemisphere Markets Highlights Latest Beef and Pork Export Results

COVID-19 Case Rates in Packing Plants Decline as General Population Rate Soars

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