China pulls back on meat imports in 2021

October 15, 2020 - Global meat imports will decline marginally in 2021 as softening demand from China offsets gains elsewhere, according to USDA GAIN Report.

China meat imports are forecast to set records in 2020 due to a sharp decline in pork production from African swine fever (ASF). Next year, imports are expected to fall as producers rebuild swine herds and production rebounds.

Outside of China, global meat imports are largely rebounding as economies bounce back from COVID-19 and as food service demand improves. China pork imports are forecast 6 percent lower at 4.5 million tons. Imports will remain near record highs but are unlikely to exceed 2020 levels due to growing domestic production.

Elsewhere, demand for pork is improving from last year when imports hit the lowest level since 2016 due to both COVID-19 and robust demand from China. Lower expected global pork prices will buoy shipments to price-sensitive markets.

China beef imports are forecast 4 percent higher at 2.9 million tons in 2021– another record high. Evolving tastes and relatively modest production growth are expected to support beef imports next year. However, rebounding pork production will slow growth in beef imports to the slowest pace in more than 5 years.

China chicken meat imports are forecast 6 percent lower at 925,000 tons. Weaker demand stems from domestic production expansion and limited consumer willingness to offset pork consumption with poultry, particulatly in light of greater pork supplies.