PARIS (Reuters) - The European Union expects to see higher pork exports and prices this year, fuelled by growing demand from China where supply has been hit by a swine fever crisis, the bloc’s executive said.
EU pork exports are seen reaching 2.92 million tonnes in 2019, up 9 percent from 2.68 million last year, the European Commission said in an agricultural market report released on Wednesday.
Unlike last year, when EU exports rose by 4 percent but demand from China fell, the impact of African swine fever outbreaks was seen boosting Chinese imports in 2019, the Commission said.
“In 2019, pigmeat exports should grow significantly as Chinese demand rises,” the European Commission said in the report. “Prices are rising as supply tightens and export prospects improve.”
Chinese pork prices are set to jump 70 percent in the second half of the year, a senior official said on Wednesday, after data showed an outbreak of African swine fever cut the world’s largest hog herd by 10 percent in the first quarter.
African swine fever, deadly for pigs but harmless for humans, has since August spread rapidly in China, which is both the world’s largest pork producer and importer.
China is the main export market for EU pork and has grown in importance since a Russian embargo on EU supplies was imposed in 2014.
A rise in EU production last year weighed on prices, contributing to a reduction in EU pig numbers, the Commission said. It added that African swine fever outbreaks in Europe and environmental regulations also curbed herd size.
However, export demand may spur extra productivity this year despite the smaller herd, the Commission said.
It projected stable EU pork production in 2019 at 24.12 million tonnes, with potential for output growth depending on the level of Chinese demand.
For 2020, the Commission tentatively projected a 0.5 percent rise in EU production and a 5 percent increase in exports.
Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Kirsten Donovan