As China opens a broader swathe of its territory to meat imports, its livestock producers need to raise their game. So warns a commentary posted on a Chinese pork industry web site last month.
Last year, this blog reported that Chinese authorities have been approving dozens of new entry points for meat imports since a 2015 bulletin called for a more tightly regulated and standardized approach to control sanitation and potential disease transmission. Most of these points were located along China's coast. Last month, a commentary on the Soozhu.com site called attention to dramatic growth of meat imports arriving at newly-approved inland entry points like Zhengzhou, the first entry point for meat approved in Henan Province and the first inland entry point approved, hundreds of miles from China's coast.
According to Zhengzhou Daily, the entry point was set up through collaboration of many companies, including Shuanghui (owner of Smithfield Foods), Congpin (another major pork company), Beijing Xin'ao (company set up by Beijing's municipal government to build the 2008 Olympics park), and a meat inspection company. According to plans the district hopes to receive meat from 23 countries, including Australian beef, pork from the U.S. and Denmark, and poultry from the U.S. and Brazil.
The Zhengzhou meat entry point now reportedly has 75 companies engaged in business. Top companies this year include Hebei Kangyuan Muslim Food Co which uses 30,000 mt or more beef and lamb annually, and Chongqing Hengdu Agriculture Group which imports 25,000 mt or more of beef. The head of Chuying Agro-Pastoral Group claims that flying in meat to Zhengzhou rather than trucking it from the Qingdao port saves his company 1 yuan per kg in domestic transportation and intermediate costs.
Zhengzhou represents the Chinese leadership's strategy of shifting the locus of growth from coastal cities to China's under-developed central and western regions. Zhengzhou does not have an ocean or river port and is not at an international border crossing. The One Belt One Road strategy of forging trade links with countries on China's western and southern borders is a related driver of the strategy.
Other inland meat entry points approved in the last two years include Luohe (Shuanghui's headquarters, also in Henan); a bonded logistics center in Lanzhou; Xinjiang border crossings with Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Mongolia; Xian's inland port; and Zhoushan in Zhejiang Province.
While imports arriving at the inland ports are growing at a rapid pace, they still account for a tiny share of China's meat imports. Zhengzhou is the top inland meat entry point, with import volume expected to surpass 30,000 metric tons in 2017. In comparison, the Tianjin and Shanghai customs districts each received over 1 million metric tons of meat and edible offal last year.
The commentary mentions that JD.com recently signed an agreement with Smithfield that will make it easier for consumers to buy pork products directly from overseas.
The (unnamed) author of the commentary acknowledges that domestic pork producers cannot help but worry about the impact of imports on their profits. However, he admonishes Chinese meat producers that the rising tide of imports at inland locations is another reminder that farmers in China must raise their technical prowess, reduce costs, and become more internationally competitive.