Highlights

Implementation of strict environmental regulations will further constrain China’s sow herd recovery in 2017. Post is decreasing its 2017 starting sow estimate by 12 percent to 38 million head. This reduction will impact the 2017 pig crop, decreasing domestic pork production to 51 million metric tons (MMT). Even at their current record levels, increased imports will only partially offset this production decrease, causing domestic pork prices to continue to rise and leading to a 2.6 MMT drop in overall pork consumption to 52 MMT. But as pork consumption declines, Chinese consumers are expected to consume more beef. Due to stable cattle prices, China’s cattle industry will increase inventory in 2017 to meet rising domestic consumption. However, the gap between domestic production and demand continues to grow, pushing beef imports to a record of nearly 1 million MT.

SWINE

Implementation of new environmental restrictions leave some producers squealing

In 2016, China’s Ministry of Agriculture announced the 13th Five-Year Plan for Agriculture. One of the major themes of the 13th Plan was the goal to improve environmental protections by moving swine production away from waterways and crowded urban populations, effectively shifting production west and northeast. In order to implement this goal, more than 20 Provincial Governments set up Development Control Areas (DCAs) within their provinces. These DCAs are established based on specific criteria set by the provincial governments, but generally establish areas near waterways and urban populations where swine operations are prohibited. For example, within the Development Control Zone (shown in red), it will be difficult (but not impossible) to conduct swine operations due to the high number of DCAs in that area. In contrast, the Development Focus Zone (in green) has fewer DCAs. Out towards the west, (i.e., Sichuan and Chongqing), there are fewer waterways and the central government also benefits from the new job growth. Up towards the northeast lies China’s Corn Belt, where close proximity to major grain producing regions will lower the feed shipping costs and provide more opportunities for on-farm manure management.

Implementation of Development Control Areas will reduce China’s overall swine herd

In 2017, all swine farms located within DCAs must be moved or destroyed. Chinese industry reports that the implementation of these DCAs has led to an overall 3.6 million pig inventory reduction, thus far. In some of the well-developed economic areas like Zhejiang and Jiangsu, swine inventory reductions have already reached 50 percent. Some large swine farming provinces like Shandong, Guangdong, and Jiangsu have committed to clear out swine farms located inside DCAs in 2017, which will lead to further swine inventory reductions.

Low sow herd starting numbers create domino effect throughout entire value chain

China’s sow herd fell to low levels in the beginning of 2016 as a result of large-scale culling due to low pork prices. Post had forecast that sow numbers would begin to quickly recover in 2017 due to increasing pork prices and lower feed prices. However, due to strict enforcement of Chinese environmental regulations for the swine industry, the sow herd recovery has been slower than expected. Accordingly, Post is revising down its 2017 sow herd beginning forecast by 12 percent to 38 million head. This lower starting sow herd number will necessarily constrain overall hog production numbers. Therefore, Post lowers its 2017 swine slaughter forecast to 625 million head.

The swine farms are being relocated from the south and east of China to the Northeast and Western parts of China. The rationale behind this move is four-fold: (1) move swine operations away from vulnerable areas, such as crowded urban areas and water-ways; (2) push the consolidation of small-and medium-farms to larger operations that have the necessary access to capital to invest in environmental improvements; (3) push the swine operations to the Northeast and West to spur economic growth in those areas; and (4) shift swine production towards China’s Corn Belt in the Northeast to reduce feed costs. In addition to establishing DCAs, China has also instituted areas to limit the size of swine farming. Together, these heightened environmental rules have forced many swine facilities to direct over 40 percent of total capital costs towards overhauling and augmenting their environmental control systems. These additional regulatory compliance costs will serve to further marginalize small- and medium-sized operations, and contribute to a further consolidation of the swine industry.

As China makes this shift in production, Post anticipates that the output and market share of these large farms will increase in 2017, possibly reaching 25 - 30 percent of total swine production.

Feed costs to remain low as China’s central government continues to deplete corn reserves

In China, corn makes up about 70 percent of total swine feed. With the hog-corn price ratio well above the break-even point in 2016, Post forecasts feed costs in 2017 will remain low as the central government still plans to liquidate more of its massive corn reserve back into the market.Nevertheless, feed costs for Chinese hog producers are much higher than the feed costs for U.S. farmers. One of the main reasons is that China has to import most of its feed from overseas, driving up costs.

Swine imports to increase in 2017 due to demand for high-quality genetics

2017 swine imports are forecast at 20,000 head—double the number in 2016 (but still below levels in 2013). This sharp increase is primarily a result of China’s push to import high-quality genetics. Imports from Canada dominate about 50 percent of the market, followed by the EU and the United States, at 21 percent and 13 percent respectively. In provinces like Sichuan, the local government aims to enrich the diversity of their genetic pool by introducing more breeding stock from the United States in 2017 and has set up subsidy funding to support more U.S. imports this year.

Swine exports remain minimal

China’s swine exports are negligible. Post forecasts 2017 exports will continue to decrease due to high domestic prices. China mainly exports to Hong Kong and Macau.

Overseas swine feeding at the China trough for now, but how long will the gravy train last?

China’s 13th 5-Year Plan for Agriculture sets forth goals to consolidate and modernize the swine industry. One way that China is trying to improve its overall hog production is through importing high-quality genetics from the EU and to a lesser extent, the United States. Some provinces are offering subsidies to swine farm operators who import foreign genetics. However, China is also angling for self-sufficiency in animal husbandry. China is making it a priority to develop China’s animal husbandry resources.

To hasten this work, MOA published Bulletin 2460, which sets explicit quality requirements for imported livestock genetics (swine, cattle, and poultry). Many of China’s trading partners are concerned that this new regulation will be later used to limit access and protect China’s nascent animal husbandry industry at a later date.

MEAT (PORK)

Overall domestic production down, but large hog operations see increase in efficiency

Post forecasts that pork production will decrease by 4 percent to 50.9 million tons in 2017, constrained by the slow recovery of the sow herd and stricter environmental laws. However, as China consolidates and modernizes its swine industry, the total volume and market share of pork production from large companies, especially fully-integrated operations, will further increase. Due to the combination of better genetics, modern facilities, and high-quality feed, these larger operations are making strong gains in terms of feed to weight ratios and meat quality. The increased efficiencies from these larger operations will help to offset the current low herd sizes.

Chinese consumers pig out on substitute proteins

While pork is still the main meat protein source for most Chinese consumers (roughly 60 percent), Post is lowering its consumption forecast from 55.8 MMT to 53.2 MMT—a 5 percent decrease. With pork at or near record prices, middle and high end consumers have shifted to beef, mutton, and seafood consumption, which many Chinese consumers view as more healthy alternatives.

Pork imports go hog-wild

Post forecasts that imports will continue to grow in 2017, reaching 2.4 MMT. Domestic restocking is dampened by the stricter environmental law implementation and imports are expected to fill the current supply gap. Imports from the EU will continue to increase with Germany and Spain as the leading exporters.

CATTLE

Steady beef prices spur increased production

China’s domestic beef cattle herd has been increasing at a steady rate. Beef prices have been stable and started recovering since September of 2016, enhancing farmers’ confidence and driving them to expand their herd sizes. While the overall economy may be slowing down, creating a dearth of stable investment opportunities, China investors have been largely optimistic that beef demand will continue to outstrip supply and are investing in expanding beef cattle operations. While China’s beef cattle industry is still dominated by small backyard farms, these small farms are inefficient and lack the expertise and experience of the large-scale operations found in Brazil and the United States.The average slaughter weight for large scale farms in China is 500-600 kilograms per carcass, while the slaughter weight for small backyard farms varies greatly is much lower.

In terms of dairy cattle, Post forecast in October of 2016 that dairy cow inventories would decrease another 10 percent from 2016’s beginning stocks as a result of low fluid milk prices. This forecast remains unchanged.

Live cattle imports drop due to constrained supply from Australia

China generally imports live cattle to improve its domestic genetics. In 2016, Australia accounted for over 70 percent of total Chinese live cattle imports, with New Zealand accounting for the remaining 30 percent. Much of this increase is a result of Chinese investors buying up Australian beef cattle farms.3 However, because of a massive herd reduction in Australia due to severe drought, poor pastures, and rising international prices, the Australian herd hit a 20-year low in 2016.4 As the Australian herd begins rebuilding, Post forecasts that China’s overall live cattle imports will decrease 8.3 percent due to the constrained supply.

Live cattle exports do not wander far from the range

China exports a very small number of live cattle, mainly to Hong Kong (which accounts for 90 percent of all live cattle exports from China) and Macau.

New genetic quality requirements could be a barbed-wire fence to future imports

Across China, government subsidies (e.g., tax exemptions and state-funded infrastructure projects) support the live cattle industry. Development of a self-sustaining domestic beef cattle industry is a strategic Chinese goal. The 2017 Number One Agricultural Document states, “[China] should accelerate the [genetic] variety improvement and make every effort to develop the cattle . . . animal husbandry [industry].” In support of this goal, MOA published Bulletin 2460, which sets strict quality requirements on imported livestock genetics. Because of the diversity of factors that contribute to improved cattle production (e.g., environment, feed, handling, veterinary care, etc.), global suppliers of live cattle are dubious that setting explicit quality requirements (e.g., all imported bulls have to be rated in the top 10 percent of bulls from the exporting country) will actually improve Chinese cattle production. Furthermore, the requirements are quite ambiguous and may prove difficult to meet from a scientific/technical point of view. Therefore, it remains a policy concern that China may invoke these quality requirements at a later time to protect its domestic animal husbandry industry.

MEAT (BEEF/VEAL)

Beef production numbers mooooove higher to meet increased demand

Post forecasts that domestic beef production will continue to steadily increase in 2017, supported by increasing domestic demand. Due to anticipated decreases in poultry consumption and increases in domestic beef consumption, Post has slightly revised its 2017 production forecast up from 7.0 million tons to 7.1 million tons.

Chinese consumers feast on beef

Post is revising its 2017 forecast up from 7.9 MMT to 8.0 MMT. With the urbanization process and increased living standard among Chinese consumers, beef consumption has been increasing in China. High pork prices have also been a factor in pushing upper-middle and high-class consumers shift to beef consumption. E-commerce is also becoming a fast-growing channel for marketing premium cuts of frozen beef to affluent, convenience-oriented consumers.

Beef imports from South America sizzle

Imports will continue to grow as the gap between domestic supply and demand widens. Post’s forecast for 2017 remains firm at 90,000 MT, which is an annual increase of 15 percent from 2016. The majority of import demand will be met by South American countries led by Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. Lower exchange rates and increasing numbers of approved export plants continue to support Brazil’s prominence in the market.

Overall beef imports from Australia will go down in 2017, due to the low herd size and domestic recovery efforts. However, China’s imports of grain-fed beef from Australia are on the rise, since Chinese consumers reportedly prefer Australia grain-fed beef over South American grass-fed beef. Furthermore, the free trade agreement between China and Australia will realize its third round of tariff reductions in 2017, potentially giving a boost to Australian imports.

Where’s the beef? U.S. beef still blocked from Chinese market by de-facto ban China still maintains a de-facto ban on U.S. beef imports, despite the OIE restoring the United States’ BSE-risk status to “negligible” (the highest status available) in 2013. U.S. beef has been banned from the Chinese market since the December 2003 discovery of BSE in the United States. While MOA and AQSIQ jointly announced a conditional lifting of the ban in September of 2016, no actual trade can begin until the United States and China reach a bilateral agreement on traceability and import protocol requirements.5 To date, no such consensus has been reached.

If China resumes imports of U.S. beef in 2017, Post expects that initial import numbers will be modest, mainly due to the relatively higher prices of U.S. beef. However, with the current high levels of U.S. beef inventories, a reopened China market could absorb some of the growing supply.

Swine PSD

Animal Numbers, Swine

Market Begin Year

China

2015

2016

2017

Jan 2015

Jan 2016

Jan 2017

USDA Official

New Post

USDA Official

New Post

USDA Official

New Post

Total Beginning Stocks

465830

465830

451130

451130

420300

402500

Sow Beginning Stocks

47000

47000

41000

40000

43250

38000

Production (Pig Crop)

696600

696600

620000

620000

672500

600500

Total Imports

4

4

5

9

10

20

Total Supply

1162434

1162434

1071135

1071139

1092810

1003020

Total Exports

1696

1696

1500

1450

1500

1300

Sow Slaughter

0

0

0

0

0

0

Other Slaughter

708250

708250

648200

666000

665000

625000

Total Slaughter

708250

708250

648200

666000

665000

625000

Loss

1358

1358

1135

1189

1110

1110

Ending Inventories

451130

451130

420300

402500

425200

375610

Total Distribution

1162434

1162434

1071135

1071139

1092810

1003020

Pork PSD

Meat, Swine

2015

2016

2017

Market Begin Year

Jan 2015

Jan 2016

Jan 2017

China

USDA Official

New Post

USDA Official

New Post

USDA Official

New Post

Slaughter (Reference)

708250

708250

648200

666000

665000

625000

Beginning Stocks

0

0

0

0

0

0

Production

54870

54870

51850

52990

53750

50900

Total Imports

1029

1029

2400

2015

2300

2400

Total Supply

55899

55899

54250

55005

56050

53300

Total Exports

231

231

180

133

180

130

Human Dom. Consumption

55668

55668

54070

54872

55870

53170

Other Use, Losses

0

0

0

0

0

0

Total Dom. Consumption

55668

55668

54070

54872

55870

53170

Ending Stocks

0

0

0

0

0

0

Total Distribution

55899

55899

54250

55005

56050

53300


Cattle PSD

Animal Numbers, Cattle

2015

2016

2017

Market Begin Year

Jan 2015

Jan 2016

Jan 2017

China

USDA Official

New Post

USDA Official

New Post

USDA Official

New Post

Total Cattle Beg. Stocks

100450

100450

100275

100275

100085

99173

Dairy Cows Beg. Stocks

15500

15500

15600

15600

14000

14000

Beef Cows Beg. Stocks

50700

50700

52000

52000

53000

53000

Production (Calf Crop)

49000

49000

50000

50000

50500

50500

Total Imports

129

129

150

120

160

110

Total Supply

149579

149579

150425

150395

150745

149783

Total Exports

12

12

10

17

10

10

Cow Slaughter

0

0

0

0

0

0

Calf Slaughter

0

0

0

0

0

0

Other Slaughter

48000

48000

49125

50000

49500

50500

Total Slaughter

48000

48000

49125

50000

49500

50500

Loss

1292

1292

1205

1205

1235

1205

Ending Inventories

100275

100275

100085

99173

100000

98068

Total Distribution

149579

149579

150425

150395

150745

149783

Beef and Veal Meat PSD

Meat, Beef and Veal

2015

2016

2017

Market Begin Year

Jan 2015

Jan 2016

Jan 2017

China

USDA Official

New Post

USDA Official

New Post

USDA Official

New Post

Slaughter (Reference)

48000

48000

49125

50000

49500

50500

Beginning Stocks

0

0

0

0

30

30

Production

6700

6700

6900

7000

6950

7070

Total Imports

663

663

825

820

950

950

Total Supply

7363

7363

7725

7820

7930

8050

Total Exports

24

24

22

24

20

20

Human Dom. Consumption

7339

7339

7673

7766

7890

8010

Other Use, Losses

0

0

0

0

0

0

Total Dom. Consumption

7339

7339

7673

7766

7890

8010

Ending Stocks

0

0

30

30

20

20

Total Distribution

7363

7363

7725

7820

7930

8050