EU pork export to China faces nightmare scenario

pork export China
According to the China Animal Husbandry Association CAHA, the total quantity of pork from the EU on the Chinese market justifies accusations of dumping. Photo: AFP

The lucrative export of European pork and its by-products to China is seriously under threat of import levies and other restrictions. China has opened an anti-dumping investigation into imported pork from the EU, apparently in response to the duties of up to 38.1% on electric vehicles (EV’s) made in China.

The investigation will focus on pork intended for human consumption, such as fresh, cold and frozen whole cuts, as well as pig intestines, bladders and stomachs, products that are especially interesting for the EU pork industry since there is hardly any market for them in Europe, experts in the European industry often say.

‘’A full suspension of EU pork exports to China would be a potential nightmare scenario for the pork supply chain, with implications across the EU,’’ said Justin Sherrard, global strategist animal protein at Rabobank. The EU accounts for more than half the roughly $6 billion worth of pork China imported in 2023. Chinese restrictions could particularly hit Spain, the Netherlands and Denmark. These countries exported over $2,6 billion worth of pork and pork products to China between them in 2023. Other larger pork exporters are France, Germany and Belgium, although imports from Germany are currently suspended because of the outbreaks of African Swine Fever in that country.


The official announcement of the investigation by the ministry of commerce followed complaints from the state-company China Animal Husbandry Association CAHA on behalf of the pork industry about unfair trading practices in the EU. Rumours about such a Chinese retaliation against the EU EV policy were circulating earlier in the local media. According to CAHA, the total quantity of pork from the EU on the Chinese market justifies accusations of dumping. “In recent years, the European Union has been dumping large quantities of low-priced pork and pig by-products into China, impacting  China’s pork and pig by-products industry, as well as the related farming sector and farmers.” CAHA and others in the industry accuse the EU of ‘massive subsidies in its pork sector’.

European Commission not worried

The European Commission is not at all worried about the investigation China has announced, a spokesperson said. Brussels will follow the procedure intensively to check whether it is carried out according to the rules of the World Trade Organisation WTO. Brussels acknowledges that it subsidises its agricultural sector with many billions of euros a year but stresses that that policy is strictly in line with WTO rules and regulations.

Farmers caught in the crossfire

However, the European industry body for agriculture Copa Cogeca says ‘it is not acceptable that farmers were caught in the crossfire of trade disputes concerning other sectors’. ‘’There are no actual anti-dumping practices that can be attributed to our pig meat sector in Europe, but we have no choice now but to take part in this investigation, which is a costly process and will most likely in any case lead to loss of market in China,’’ its director general Patrick Pagani commented. The Spanish industry body Interporc urged for negotiations instead of a trade war: ‘’What we hope is that the relationship between the EU and China will always be a good one, and we are working to ensure that this good relationship continues,’’ it said. European pork producers should be able to keep exporting to China tariff-free while the investigation is underway, pending a decision and a tariff announcement by the Chinese side.


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Ruud Peijs International Journalist
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