China's pork imports almost tripled in March from last year, customs data showed on Tuesday, soaring to a record monthly volume as buyers sought to plug a huge supply gap after African swine fever decimated the country's pig herd.
China, the world's biggest consumer of pork, brought in 391,000 tonnes last month, up from 127,218 tonnes in March 2019, according to Reuters calculations based on data from General Administration of Customs.
Shipments of pork in the first quarter came to 951,000 tonnes, nearly double the same period last year, the customs data showed.
African Swine Fever
The deadly African swine fever disease reduced China's pig herd by at least 40% last year, slashing pork output and sending prices of the country's favourite meat to record highs.
An extended Lunar New Year holiday in February, implemented to help China tackle the coronavirus epidemic, also led to a backlog clearing refrigerated containers at China's ports that month, boosting the shipments handled in March.
China said last month imports in the first two months of 2020 came to 560,000 tonnes, up 158% from a year earlier.
Imports of beef in the first quarter reached 531,000 tonnes, up 65%, customs said on Tuesday. That puts March arrivals at 233,875 tonnes, based on imports of 297,125 tonnes in the first two months of the year.
Beef imports are expected to fall in coming months, however, after a plunge in demand from the important foodservice sector as people stay away from restaurants to avoid the coronavirus.
The data showed that in the first quarter China bought $5.05 billion of farm goods from United States, up 110% from last year.
This included 168,000 tonnes of US pork, a more than seven-fold increase.