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Record pork purchases by China

China in 2008 bought from around the world the most pork ever by a single country, which eclipsed the 2005 record set by Japan, the U. S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) said Feb. 3.

However, because of increased pork production in China, the USMEF doubts that record will be matched in 2009.

Based on import totals from China and Hong Kong, the USMEF calculated that China imported 1.925 million tonnes, or 4.2 billion pounds, of pork and pork products in 2008. That included 1.161 million tonnes, or nearly 2.6 billion pounds, of pork variety meats and 764,000 tons, or 1.7 billion pounds, of pork cuts.

That indicates that China’s imports eclipsed the previous single-year record of 1.022 million tonnes, 2.2 billion pounds, of pork imported by Japan in 2005.

“The volume demonstrates the huge influence China can have on global markets,” Joel Haggard, senior vice-president of USMEF’s Asia Pacific region, said in a statement. “The import volume, though huge, represents less than five per cent of China’s consumption.”

USMEF works to develop markets around the world for U. S. meat.

From the United States, USMEF estimates that China and Hong Kong in 2008 bought 386,000 tonnes (851 million pounds), valued at nearly $700 million. The EU and Brazil were the other major pork suppliers to the region.

Increased industry profitability last spring, coupled with a range of hog-raising subsidies, have resulted in a substantial expansion of China’s herd, which may reduce its pork imports in 2009.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, by the end of the third quarter of 2008, China’s live hog inventory had increased 6.6 per cent from the year-earlier figure, and the sow population increased 12.4 per cent, USMEF said. Total marketed hogs increased 5.8 per cent and meat production was up approximately six per cent.

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