The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is forecasting that Chinese beef import demand will increase again in 2022, but at a slower pace than the rapid growth over recent years.
It forecasts an increase of 200,000t on 2021 volumes, bringing the total beef import forecast for 2022 up to 3.3m tonnes.
Beef production in China is forecast by USDA to reach 7m tonnes for the first time in 2022, continuing the upward trend and encouraged by strong market demand and increasing prices.
Growth in beef volume produced in China is forecast to be driven by increased genetic efficiency rather than increased cattle numbers.
USDA is forecasting only slight growth in per-capita consumption for 2022, with the main growth coming from secondary cities, as expansion in cold chain logistics and infrastructure rolls out.
It also predicts that the high-value demand growth is likely to come from fresh beef as opposed to frozen beef.
Chinese pig production, which has been rebuilding since the outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in 2018, has stalled and will reverse next year.
This is because further outbreaks of the disease this year have led to increased culling of the pig herd, which in turn feeds into lower breeding potential next year.
Adding to the downward pressure has been government policies, which are intended to limit price volatility, but have the effect of discouraging production.
China is looking to move its pig production into larger, more bio-secure units and discourage small domestic production, which is blamed as a major cause of the rapid spread of ASF.
Pigmeat production in 2021 has been maximised with the slaughter of above-average weight pigs.
The result of this, according to the USDA, is that import demand for pigmeat will reach 5.1m tonnes in 2022, which has to be good news for Irish and EU pig producers.
It is clear that demand from China for imports of beef and pigmeat will continue growing, if at a slower pace in 2022.
Irish pig farmers and exporters will be in prime position to use this opportunity, the key criteria being that we remain ASF-free.
It is more frustrating for beef producers and exporting factories. Since the suspension of exports following the BSE case in May 2020, China has not given the clearance to resume business.
The Irish Government must keep pushing this and, additionally, secure extension of the approval to include fresh chilled and bone-in beef, plus get access for sheepmeat.
There will be a gap in the market, with Argentina reducing exports. So far, it is the US that appears to be filling that space, where, prior to the BSE case, we might have expected it to be Ireland.