Currently, only 1 percent of Chinese-produced meat is exported, but China is working to increase its meat exports.

The reason behind China’s low meat exports was largely due to the country’s quality standards– they did not follow those accepted for international trade. However, Chinese officials are taking initial steps to make China’s meat acceptable for international export.

To start, there will be five, animal-disease-free zones constructed by 2002. The intention is to keep those areas free of diseases such as BSE, swine fever and avian flu. This prevention, quarantine and monitoring framework will adhere to strict standards, following requirements agreed to with the World Trade Organization.

With China’s vast humane population and appetite for pork, the U.S. pork industry has pointed to China as a potential cash cow for future sales. Other countries, like Canada, were eyeing the market as well.

Right now, China’s pork production and consumption mirror each other closely, which made exporters think that China was more likely to import meat than to export it.

While the news that China wants to increase its own meat exports could be viewed as negative to U.S. pork industry plans, there remain a lot of questions to be answered.

Advances in quality will be costly to Chinese producers, and it may be more economical for China to import pork from a low-cost producer like the United States or Canada. Most of China’s production literally is of the backyard variety. That obviously does not meet export safety standards. Also, buying feed grains to replace table scraps currently fed (at least in many cases) would significantly change the Chinese pork production scene.

Another challenge working against China is the country’s population vs. arable land. The United States and Canada are able to produce more vast quantities of pork, because they have the land needed to absorb the manure. China would not have enough acres to be able to absorb nutrients from the manure applied. The population density of China also could be a negative factor, as odor and environmental issues become more prevalent there.