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Rabobank: Battle for China’s pork market continues

In the 1st quarter of 2018, global pork supply is forecast to increase further, mainly driven by the US, Canada, and Brazil. China’s pork imports have been slowing down lately, but are expected to pick up again over the rest of the year.

These were the key messages by Rabobank, communicated in the company’s latest global Pork Quarterly.

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Chenjun Pan, a senior analyst for animal protein at RaboResearch, stated, “The most significant story in global pork markets has been the slowing imports into China, which creates a risk of oversupplied global markets. However, we do expect China’s imports to pick up somewhat over the rest of the year, leading the EU, the US, and Canada to continue their battle for China’s pork market in 2018.”

China’s pork prices: strong

China’s pork prices are expected to remain strong, due to a tight supply. This drop in availability follows capacity reductions triggered by stricter environmental policy enforcement in 2017. Despite the expected supply volatility in the 1st quarter, the bank maintains its forecast that production will continue to increase in 2018. While local prices will be volatile, pork imports are expected to rebound after a sharp decline in 2017.

Pork for sale on a wet market in Shanghai, China. Prices for pork have been strong in recent times. Photo: Vincent ter Beek
Pork for sale on a wet market in Shanghai, China. Prices for pork have been strong in recent times. Photo: Vincent ter Beek

Justin Sherrard, global strategist animal protein at the bank, added, “Expanding production in most regions means exports become more important in 2018. We expect competition in key importing markets, particularly in China, to intensify.”

Some other highlights included:

EU: rising supply pressuring prices

After a relatively short period of strong profitability, pig producers have reinvested for growth, observed Rabobank. As a result, we expect increased production to reach the market beginning in 2018. The additional supply is expected to pressure pig prices and cut-out values. This price decline could stimulate consumption and exports. The latter is concentrated on Asian markets, in which China plays a key role.

Read more projections for the 1st quarter of 2018 in John Strak’s analysis of global pork market

US: prices rise amid competition for hogs

Faster growth in US pork production, of 4.3%, will necessitate the free flow of exports and healthy domestic demand, according to Rabobank. Strong exports to start the year have intensified the competition for market hogs, to the detriment of packer returns. This increase has already provided an opportunity for producers to secure very good margins for much of 2018.

Brazil: export to China declined significantly

Local Brazilian pork demand is expected to increase, along with the improving economic conditions, Rabobank wrote. The expected stabilisation of feed costs will continue to support good profitability for hog producers for much of 2018. Pork exports to China in 2018 are expected to rebound strongly. Russia’s ban on Brazilian pork remains a wild card for 2018.

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