By Alfred Cang
Chinese pork imports jumped 75% to a record in 2019 as the government sought to curb prices after African swine fever ravaged herds. Soybean purchases from overseas held steady.
Imports of U.S. pork and soybeans increased notably in December in the runup to a phase-one trade deal between the two nations, according to customs. The agreement is due to be signed on Jan. 15.
China imported 88.5 million tons of soybeans last year, just 0.5% higher than 2018, according to customs data released on Tuesday. The nation shipped in 2.1 million tons of pork, the data show.
Inbound soybean shipments in December were 9.5 million tons, the highest level since May 2018.
- The Asian country has been battling African swine fever as well as trying to negotiate a trade deal with the U.S.
- The virus has slashed hog numbers, reducing demand for feed, and therefore soybean meal, which is produced by crushing beans. That has also spurred more pork imports.
- China may increase purchases of American farm products this year after signing the trade deal, which is expected to include a pledge to buy $40 billion a year of agricultural goods.
- China has been issuing regular tariff waivers for domestic firms to buy U.S. soybeans. The exemptions cover the 30% retaliatory duties on the oilseed, which buyers process into edible oil and animal feed.
- The country is reviewing applications for tariff exemptions on U.S. goods worth $60 billion, according to the government.
- China may boost imports of American soybeans in the first quarter of the year before South American supplies peak.
- African swine fever will cap soybean imports in 2020, and probably keep overseas pork purchases at a historically high level.