Monday, July 20, 2015

China Hog Output Plummets; Prices Soar

China's hog production is plummeting. The National Bureau of Statistics report on economic data for the first half of 2015 showed that pork production was 25.74 million metric tons, down 4.9 percent from the first half of 2014. The number of hogs slaughtered during January-June totaled 334 million, down 5.1 percent from last year.

ItemJan-June 2015Change from a year ago
Million metric
Pork output25.7-4.9
Hogs slaughtered334.4-5.1
Hog inventory417.4-6.0
Source: China National Bureau of Statistics

The number of hogs in inventory at the end of June 2015 was 417 million, down 48 million from the 465 million reported at the end of 2014. The 48-million decline in Chinese hog numbers over six months is more than all the hogs in Brazil, equal to three-fourths of the U.S. swine inventory or a third of hogs in the EU.

The pork output number for the second quarter was down 7.5 percent year-on-year, twice as fast as the 3.1 percent y-o-y decline in the first quarter of 2015 (implied by the numbers released for the first six months and for the first quarter).

According to Ministry of Agriculture data, the number of pigs slaughtered at "designated slaughterhouses" during June 2015 was down 15 percent from June last year. The MOA reported that the June 2015 hog inventory was down 10 percent year-on-year, and the sow inventory was down 15 percent.

The meat output figures released by NBS imply that production of other meats--poultry, beef, and lamb--was up 2.8 percent in the first half of 2015.

The decline in hog numbers reflects a number of influences--high corn prices, excess capacity, weak demand, and strict enforcement of environmental regulations that is shutting down pig farms in many localities.

With shrinking supplies, prices have started to surge. According to the National Development and Reform Commission, the average Chinese hog price bottomed out at 12.18 yuan per kg in March 2015 and shot up 40 percent to 17.06 yuan per kg July 15.

In early July, Chinese retail pork prices were up about 5.5 percent from a year ago, according to National Bureau of Statistics retail food price data. Prices of other meats were more-or-less steady from last year.

Chinese pork prices have been going bullwhip-style through mini-cycles over the last several years. It's unclear whether this is another temporary surge or if prices are on a trajectory to hit stratospheric highs reached in 2011. With a lot of pork around the world looking for a home, a surge of imports could choke off this price rally.


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