Beijing releases pork reserves

Govt also giving subsidy to spur retailers to cut prices amid shortage and rising demand

Customers shopping for pork at a supermarket in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, on April 11.
Customers shopping for pork at a supermarket in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, on April 11.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIJING • When it comes to pork, China is the world's No. 1 consumer and producer. But soaring pork prices have forced the capital to release some of its frozen-pork reserves into the market for the first time.

Over the next two months beginning yesterday, Beijing will release 3.05 million kg of pork from its reserves in an effort to rein in inflation and cool pork prices that jumped by as much as 50 per cent last month, reports said.

The Beijing municipal government announced this week that it will sell 50,000kg of pork each day to 121 supermarket chains in the city of some 22 million residents.

The authorities will also provide a subsidy of nine yuan (S$1.88) per kilogram to give supermarkets an incentive to cut pork prices for consumers, reported Reuters.

A consumer identified only by her surname Zhong told China News Service that a Beijing supermarket she frequents would be cutting prices by 2.5 to 4.5 yuan a kg during the two-month pork release period. "Pork prices are finally coming down," Ms Zhong said.

China's raw pork prices jumped 50.6 per cent month on month in April, Xinhua news agency said.

The rise continues this month, with prices reaching 20.9 yuan per kg on Wednesday, up 4.5 per cent from the previous week and 24.4 per cent for the year to date, according to the Financial Times.

High pork prices were felt in the latest inflation data out of China, reported Wall Street Journal.

Consumer prices were up 2.3 per cent in March from a year earlier, matching February's level.

The food-price component of the index rose 7.6 per cent in March, led by higher pork and vegetable prices.

The sharp increase in pork prices was due to a shortage of pigs in China and growing domestic consumption that have also driven record imports of Chinese consumers' favourite meat from foreign farms.

The country consumed 57 million tonnes of the meat last year.

Millions of small pork farmers quit the industry last year after two years of low prices and the introduction of tough new environmental rules.

Their exit has cut the number of breeding sows and curbed China's ability to quickly rebuild its herd. An outbreak of disease earlier this year also killed many piglets.

At last count in January, according to the Financial Times, China's total stock of sows was just shy of 38 million, down from a peak of more than 50 million in late 2012.

As a result, imports soared 90 per cent in the year to end-March to a record 286,093 tonnes, according to figures from the General Administration of Customs - still a sliver of total pork consumption nationwide.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2016, with the headline 'Beijing releases pork reserves'. Subscribe