China Is Throwing the Doors Open to Meat Imports Amid Swine Fever

China looks to import more pork. ( Farm Journal )

(Bloomberg) -- China has been boosting meat imports to offset losses of pork from a raging fever that’s killing its domestic hogs. This week, the country is signaling it still wants more.

China’s Cofco Corp. inked an deal with Europe’s top meat processor for pork purchases through 2020, and the Asian country lifted a ban on Canadian pork and beef that was imposed in June. It also approved imports of Brazilian offal, which includes byproducts like organs, potentially a $2 billion annual market. Meat giants like JBS SA and BRF SA can start shipments immediately. Last month, China signaled it may lift a ban on U.S. poultry exports.

China’s imports of protein like beef and chicken have been soaring. African swine fever may more than halve the country’s hog herd by the start of next year, and domestic retail prices are surging, indicating that shortages have begun.

China suspended Canadian meat shipments in June after the discovery of a forged cargo certificate. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said it started issuing export certificates after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted on Tuesday that China would resume imports of meat from the country.

Under the deal reached Wednesday with Danish Crown A/S, Cofco will buy $100 million of pork through next year. The EU ranks as the world’s top exporter of the meat and its sales to China this year have nearly doubled by value, reaching about 2.2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) through August, European Commission figures show.

The Denmark-based producer recently opened its first plant in China and is eyeing further expansion in the nation, said Lars Albertsen, global sales head. Its exports to China climbed 67% by volume in the third quarter. Demand is also rising from other Asian nations suffering from African swine fever outbreaks.

“We’re fairly optimistic about 2020 from an export point of view to China,” Albertsen said by phone. “We’ve seen some of the very big pork importers in the world hit by ASF, and obviously that’s created demand that’s not been seen before.”

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