UPDATE 2-China’s 2022 pork output highest in eight years

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China’s pork output increased 4.6% in 2022 from 2021 to reach its highest level since 2014, official data showed on Tuesday, confounding some expectations for a smaller rise.

Pork output in the world’s top producer of the meat reached 55.41 million tonnes, the highest since 56.71 million tonnes recorded eight years ago. The 2022 output compared with 52.96 million tonnes in 2021.

Output was boosted by high fourth-quarter production of 13.91 million tonnes, according to Reuters calculations of the data from the National Bureau of Statistics. That was up 0.87% from the same year-earlier quarter despite a shortage of slaughterhouse labour due to COVID outbreaks.

Farmers have raised heavier hogs, hoping to benefit from an anticipated recovery in demand and prices, a factor that could have boosted output.

Demand had, however, remained tepid due to surging COVID-19 cases in China that kept many people at home, causing prices to plunge.

The data shows that China’s pork production has increased every quarter year-on-year for the last two years despite sluggish demand.

“I haven’t heard there’s much storage so it needs to be consumed already, which is difficult to explain,” said a livestock analyst, declining to be identified because of the sensitivity of questioning official data.

A rally in prices over the summer encouraged farmers to fatten pigs up more than normal to increase their profits.

Though it has declined, the average weight of live pigs was still on the high side at about 124.5 kilogrammes last week, according to analysts at Huachuang Agriculture.

That will continue to pressure prices, they said, in a Jan.15 note.

Meat consumption is set to improve after China’s reopening from a strict three-year COVID policy, with more group dining and business gatherings to support demand.

However, some believe pork consumption may not recover to the levels prior to China’s African swine fever outbreak that began in 2018, with many still cautious about crowded gatherings.

China’s beef output increased last year by 3% to 7.18 million tonnes, the data also showed, while poultry output rose 2.6% to 24.43 million tonnes and lamb and mutton increased 2% to 5.25 million tonnes. (Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Neil Fullick)

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