China is likely to import about three million tons of pork in 2017, according to a Reuters report. This is similar to last year’s level despite rising domestic production, a senior industry official said.


“Global prices are still attractive for importing pork into China,” Juhui Huang, Shanghai-based vice president of Brazilian food conglomerate BRF SA told Reuters. “We expect pork imports will remain the same as last year at around 3 million tons.”


China, which accounts for half of the world’s pork consumption, has been rebuilding its herd of pigs following widespread culling in 2014 when prices were low.


“The number of sows in China is down to 38 million, which is a massive number of sows out of production,” Aidan Connolly, chief innovation officer at Alltech, told PORK Network. The drop is attributed to fewer small farms and an increase in large, well-managed farms.


“It’s a good story we’re hearing from China,” Connolly said. “It means the price of pork will be more affordable but more importantly, it will be easier to ensure the food supply is safe.”


China has primarily been importing pork from the EU. In fact, the Global Meat News reported imports from the EU to China were up 93% at the beginning of last year. While U.S. producers hope to capture more of the Chinese market, it remains to be seen if trade agreements will be implemented to help make this happen in the present political climate.


China’s Dalian Commodity Exchange (DCE) is planning to launch hog futures by the end of 2017, Wang Feng Hai, chief executive of the exchange told Reuters.


Huang, who previously worked for China’s agriculture ministry and trading companies such as Archer Daniels Midland Co., said imported pork is mainly used for processing into sausages and bacon.


“People prefer local pork for fresh meat because of taste preferences,” Huang said.


China Set to Import 3 Million Tons of Pork This Year