The prosperous southern city of Guangzhou faces an “enormous reduction” in the “self-controlled” volume of pork produced in the city’s environs in 2016, according to the Guangzhou University Research Institute, which publishes an annual ‘Blue Book’ measuring the output and consumption of meat and vegetables in the city and its outlying rural areas.
Production of pork fell by a huge 18% in 2014, while vegetable output in Guangzhou (a city with an official population of 14 million) rose by 4.1%, poultry production by 1.1% and farmed fish by 0.1%.
Guangzhou, like China’s other large cities, maintains a municipal ‘food basket’ policy that seeks to guarantee self-sufficiency of agricultural output – in part because officials, wary of social strife, are keen to keep food prices steady.
But polluting industries like intensive animal husbandry and fish farming have come under pressure in recent years as cities seek to attract high-tech, high-value investment and jobs.
Other key cities in Guangdong began divesting their piggeries during the past decade with the manufacturing hub of Dongguan – an hour’s drive from Guangzhou – putting an official ban on new pig farms in 2009 in favour of “high value industries”.
As well as being China’s top manufacturing region, the province of Guangdong (of which Guangzhou is capital) has also been home to major pig feed and breeding companies like Guangdong Wen’s Foodstuffs, which breeds pigs and poultry and produces feedstuffs.
Wen’s has in recent years shifted the focus of its production away from southern China to the central and northern regions.
Costs could rise
Guangzhou officials are worried that pig/pork costs could rise sharply, given the longer trucking times and higher costs as meat is trucked in from inland provinces like Henan and Sichuan, as well as northerly Jilin – all poorer regions to which much of China’s pig farming has relocated.
Reached by phone, an official at the local office of the China Animal Husbandry Association explained how a rebound in pork prices this year was giving cause for alarm to local officials, who have long sought to keep control of food prices through controlling local production levels.
China's food inflation rebounded to 1.9% year-on-year in June from 1.6%, driven by pork prices, which rose 7% year-on-year in June, compared to a 5.3% rise in May.
Producing sufficient piglets is the “gravest challenge”, according to the Guangzhou University Research Institute’s Blue Book. The surrounding province of Guangdong has also long been a supplier to neighbouring Hong Kong, potentially pushing up the price of pork in that market.