Livestock and Products Report - People's Republic of China

Beef production in 2009 is expected to slide six per cent to 5.8 million metric tons and continue falling in 2010, according to Michael Woolsey and Jianping Zhang in the latest GAIN report from USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.
calendar icon 17 January 2010
clock icon 7 minute read

Report Highlights

FAS Beijing forecasts China's pork production will continue rising in 2010 to more than 50 million metric tons (MMT). Higher pork production and lower prices will reduce pork imports in 2009 by more than half and further declines in import demand are expected in 2010. China's 2009 beef production is expected to slide six per cent to 5.8 MMT and continue falling in 2010 due to low returns for Chinese cattle producers. Continued double-digit gains in China's breeding cow imports are expected in 2010, fueled by a forecast rise in demand for Chinese milk products and recovering Chinese production.

Executive Summary

FAS Beijing forecasts China's total meat production in 2010 will reach 78.6 million metric tons (MMT), a four per cent gain from 2009. Beef and mutton production are expected to decline, while pork production is expected to grow steadily. Meanwhile, continued modest growth is expected for poultry production.

Post forecasts China's beef production in 2010 will fall five per cent to below 5.5 MMT, following a six per cent decline in 2009, as continued low beef producer returns dampen beef cow production. Post forecasts China's 2010 beef imports will rise 20 per cent to 18,000 MT, encouraged by continued high prices in the Chinese beef market. Significantly higher quantities of imported beef will continue to move through grey channels. Meanwhile, further declines in Chinese beef exports are expected, falling to 25,000 metric tons in 2010.

China suspended imports of live swine and swine products from Mexico, the United States and Alberta Province in Canada in late April 2009 due to an outbreak of human A-H1N1 flu in Mexico and North America. Although China subsequently lifted its ban on US cooked pork, porcine casings and gelatin, US exports have not resumed due to China's policy to require pre-export disinfection of the exterior of shipping containers containing US pork products.

Post forecasts China's pork production in 2010 will increase nearly four per cent to 50.3 MMT from an estimated 48.5 MMT in the previous year, fueled by government sow subsidies and improved PRRS control. An oversupply of hogs in 2009 pushed swine and pork prices down considerably, with the benchmark average retail price in 36 cities falling to a three-year low in June of just over 10 yuan per kilogram. The price decline spurred government purchases of 120,000 metric tons in mid-June under a market intervention scheme, as the pork to corn price ratio fell below the intervention trigger level of 5.5. Prices have since rebounded strongly, up 10 per cent in late August compared to early June. Dampened by abundant local supplies, China's pork imports are expected to continue falling to an estimated 120,000 MT in 2010. Meanwhile, Chinese pork exports are forecast to increase four per cent to 240,000 MT.

Production: Beef Production Continues to Slide

Post expects Chinese beef cow inventory to decline for the third year in a row due to comparatively poor farm returns. Despite high beef prices, cattle supplies continue to fall, driving beef production down an estimated six per cent in 2009 to 5.8 MMT, with further declines expected in 2010.

Small backyard operators, who account for 80 per cent of Chinese beef producers, have been discouraged in recent years by high grain prices and a cattle marketing structure that disadvantages small producers. Small operators typically sell their cattle through brokers to medium-small slaughterhouses for wet markets. With poor access to market information, farmers accept comparatively low prices for their cattle. Chinese producers have also been discouraged by a long beef cow and steer production cycle. Farm returns are uncertain during the long production period, especially with fluctuating production costs and continued outbreaks of foot and mouth disease (FMD), which have been increasing in 2009. The declining interest in raising cattle among small-scale operators has led to a significant reduction in China's cattle supply in many areas.

Large-scale slaughterhouses have become increasingly integrated and their products are mostly geared to high end beef markets where demand is comparatively strong. They normally own their own feedlots, and often sign contracts with cattle farmers, while also buying through brokers and directly from cattle farmers without contracts. If steers do not meet contract requirements, they are not accepted. These facilities typically buy two-way or three-way cross bred steers at 18 months to place them at their own feedlots. The fattening period takes three to six months depending on animal weights. The primary marketing channels for these products are high-end hotels, supermarkets and restaurants.

Post expects China's dairy cow production to continue recovering from the nation-wide milk melamine crisis in September 2008. Dairy consumption remains well below normal levels at just 75 per cent of the level prior to melamine. As a result, some dairy cows were slaughtered for beef during the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009. Following the introduction of a government subsidy for loan interest on dairy cows procurement, and higher offer prices for milk from dairy processing plants, dairy cow slaughter has reportedly stopped. Overall, the impact of China's higher dairy cow slaughter on the beef market has been minimal and will further diminish through 2009.

The beef cattle genetics market in China could represent new sales opportunities due to expected demand for improved beef genetics in China. Currently, there are very few pure-bred beef cattle in China. Domestic high-quality cattle normally come from three-way cross bred cattle between local cattle and western Simmental, Caroline and Limousine, but the improved stocks are small. As a result, high-quality beef accounts for less than five per cent of total Chinese beef production. Post believes that consumer demand for consistent, higher quality beef will continue to rise, driving demand for genetically improved beef production.

Consumption: Beef Consumption to Continue Falling due to High Prices

Post expects China's beef consumption will continue sliding in 2010 to below 5.5 million tons as high prices discourage sales. Through 2009, average nationwide wholesale beef continued to rise from record levels in 2008, exceeding $3.50 per kilogram in August, up six per cent from August 2008. This compares to $2.08/kg for pork (down 21 per cent from August 2008) and $1.34/kg for broiler meat (down five per cent).

Regular short plates sell best for hot pot among all consumers because of comparatively cheap prices. Bone-in and boneless short ribs and rib fingers are popular at Korean and Japanese restaurants in China. Rib-eye rolls, boneless strip lions, short lions and tenderloins are mainly consumed at high-end hotels and restaurants. Chinese consumers prefer grain-fed beef because of the tenderness with marble lines. High-end hotels and restaurants like to use imported beef and require specific cuts, grades and animal age, in order to guarantee the quality for specific menus.

Trade: Strong Demand for Breeding Dairy Cow Imports

Post forecast China's live cattle imports will surge 17 per cent in 2010 to 21,000 head as China continues to rebuild its dairy industry following the nationwide melamine crisis. With a significant number of Chinese dairy cows slaughtered in early 2009 due to slack milk demand, demand will be fueled by a need for herd replacement as well as improved genetics. The government's subsidy of RMB500 ($73) per cow for MOA (Ministry of Agriculture) certified high-quality dairy heifers will further encourage imports.

Beef imports to continue rising

While a tiny share of total consumption, China's beef imports in 2010 are forecast to continue rising to 18,000 MT, due mainly to lower domestic production. Imports from Australia have been particularly strong in 2009, with imports through July nearly doubling to 3,074 metric tons. Sales have been fueled by depreciation in the value of the Australian currency against the yuan that began in late 2008 and continued through mid-2009. Traders report continued robust sales of beef imports through grey channels in 2009.

Chinese live cattle and beef exports expected lower

Post forecasts China's live cattle exports in 2010 to decline seven per cent to 28,000 head, which follows a nine per cent decline in 2009. Beef exports in 2010 are forecast to decline 24 per cent to 25,000 MT, following an estimated 43 per cent decrease in the previous year. Lower demand for Chinese beef imports in 2008 and 2009 is due primarily to the overall global financial crisis and rising Chinese beef prices. Food safety has also played a role as key markets such as Japan and South Korea have tightened inspection, quarantine, and audits of Chinese processing plants. Meanwhile AQSIQ suspended issuance of export health certificates for several weeks in 2009 and directed exporting plants to re-evaluate their food safety systems and make improvements where needed.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

January 2010

© 2000 - 2024 - Global Ag Media. All Rights Reserved | No part of this site may be reproduced without permission.