China’s September pig herd was down 41.1% from year-ago, the country’s ag ministry reported today, as African swine fever has wiped out millions of animals. The number of sows was down 38.9% from year-ago in September.
Most analysts believe losses are even bigger than official estimates and that even greater year-over-year declines are likely into year-end and the first half of 2020. This has pushed domestic pork prices 84% higher on the year, which has in turn pushed the country’s food price index to its highest level since January 2012. The protein shortage also has China bringing in more pork and beef.
China’s pork imports during September surged 76% from year-ago to 166,000 MT, pushing pork imports for the first nine months of the year to 1.33 MMT, a 43.6% surge from the same period last year, according to customs data and Reuters calculations.
During September, China imported 149,666 MT of beef, a 50% gain from year-ago and just under the record high of 152,213 MT. So far this calendar year, China has imported 1.13 MMT of beef, a 53.4% gain from year-ago.
The flip side of the ASF outbreak is a major cut to Chinese demand for soybeans to be crushed for feed. For the first nine months of the year China has imported 64.5 MMT of soybeans, a 7.9% slide from year-ago. But imports of the oilseed did improve a bit in September.
China imported 8.2 MMT of soybeans last month, a 13.5% slide from August but a 2.4% increase from year-ago levels, according to customs data out today. Importers reportedly hiked purchases of Brazilian beans on concerns about supply shortages and uncertainty about how the trade war with the U.S. would play out. A recent easing of tensions with the U.S. has led to stepped up U.S. bean buys in recent weeks.