China’s imports of pork and pork products in 2008 have set a new world record. According to U.S. Meat Export Federation, China’s pork imports for the year were the largest for any single country in history. The Chinese trade data statistics were released last week.

Based on import totals from China and Hong Kong, the country imported 4.2 billion pounds of pork and pork products last year, including nearly 2.6 billion pounds of pork variety meats and 1.7 billion pounds of pork cuts.

Although not yet final, USMEF estimates that total U.S. pork and pork product exports to China and Hong Kong reached 851 million pounds valued at nearly $700 million in 2008. The EU and Brazil were the other major pork suppliers to the region.

Available trade data suggests that China's imports eclipsed the previous single-year record of 2.2 billion pounds of pork imported by Japan in 2005.

"The volume demonstrates the huge influence China can have on global markets when supply and demand become imbalanced,” said Joel Haggard, senior vice president of USMEF's Asia Pacific region. “The import volume, though huge, represents less than 5 percent of China’s consumption."

Haggard believes it is unlikely that China's pork imports this year will match last year's record. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, by the end of the third quarter of 2008, China's live hog inventory had increased 6.6 percent from the year-earlier figure.

Source: USMEF