October 25, 2019 / 11:54 AM / 25 days ago

China pork prices surge towards $8 a kilo as demand picks up

BEIJING, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Pork prices in China surged past 50 yuan ($7.07) per kilogramme this week, as colder weather brought rising demand, exacerbating a severe meat shortage in the world’s top consumer.

The retail price PORK-CN-TOT-D jumped 9.2% in the week to Oct. 16, data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs showed, the biggest weekly jump since at least 2016.

Prices are already way above previous records after a year-long outbreak of African swine fever left China’s herd more than 40% smaller.

Major breeders are also holding onto female pigs that were originally destined for slaughter to use for breeding instead, as they try to rebuild the herd without enough breeding sows.

That has reduced the slaughter volume just as pork consumption edges higher with the colder weather, Jim Huang, chief executive at China-America Commodity Data Analytics, said.

Cofco Meat, the country’s sixth largest producer, said last week that retaining female slaughter pigs had contributed to a 60% decline in the number of pigs slaughtered in the third quarter, though raising hogs to a larger slaughter weight was also a factor.

Live hog prices, meanwhile, hit 44 yuan per kg on Friday in the southern provinces of Sichuan JCI-HOG-CHNDU, Guangdong JCI-HOG-GDONG and FujianJCI-HOG-FZHOU.

The national average in China of 40.4 yuan per kg is more than five times current U.S. prices for live hogs. But the China-U.S. trade war is curbing supplies from the United States, the world’s top pork exporter, because of high trade tariffs, analysts said.

With pork prices reaching 53.8 yuan per kg by the end of the week, market watchers debated whether they could soon hit 60 yuan.

Most expect Beijing to intervene before prices hit that level.

“If pork rises to 60 yuan, beef and lamb prices will be unimaginable, the meat market will really have a big problem and consumers won’t be able to put up with it,” Feng Yonghui, chief analyst at pig industry portal Soozhu.com, said. ($1 = 7.0707 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Dominique Patton and Beijing Newsroom. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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