THE WORLD’S most populous nation, China (until India surpasses it this year or next), has half the world’s pig population — and a problem.
China’s pig population is now, officially, 420 million.
But that’s down 55 million in the last three years.
That’s because the Chinese are eating more pork (and a little bit more beef and chicken) as the middle class and their diet has a higher protein content.
The huge pig population makes China the biggest importer of soy, sorghum and corn for animal feed — at least five times Australia’s total grain production.
Part of the reason for the reduced pig herd was, at the same time Chinese ate more protein, the government was encouraging larger scale pig farms and cracking-down on environmental waste issues from intensive farming.
That led to a big increase to 2.18 million tonnes of imported pork.
But, as part of the key government strategy of keeping most value-add in agriculture (and manufacturing) in China, it expects the import of processed pork to fall to 1.6 million tonnes a year from 2018.
That means more feed grain imports, but that’s far less costly than importing processed meat.
This highlights the Chinese strategy of importing raw materials — not just iron ore but also live cattle — and building-up internal agriculture (easier with lot feeding animals than grain production as the country’s water shortage becomes more apparent).
It suggests Gina Rinehart is reading the Chinese strategy correctly by using Australia as a breeding ground to send live cattle to China for fattening and processing.
But it does have major implications for Australia — we might have many more opportunities to sell live cattle and grains to China, but capture less of the value-add in agriculture.