Two years ago, Asia was the hero for EU pork exporters, thrown into a state of crisis when Russia’s politically-charged trade ban created a huge surplus of meat bereft of a suitable market. Thanks in great part to China, Asian appetite for European pork products helped lift the industry out of the doldrums.
And while trade this year has been relatively stable, the latest statistics make for glum reading.
Volumes of EU pork exports to China dropped by 10% in September; sales to Japan fell 7.5%; Hong Kong registered a 7% decline and South Korean imports fell 36%.
The numbers problem
Trade statistics can sometimes be notoriously difficult to interpret. One country’s imports do not always match up with its partner’s exports, for example. When asked why pork export volume has declined in Asia, the UK’s red meat levy body, the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board, was stumped.
“Generally it would seem that the US, Canada, Brazil and the EU have been vying for market share in Asia, but I can’t conclusively say what is behind the downturn this time,” said analyst Duncan Wyatt.
He was not sure if the issue was related to domestic demand and supply or another exporter out-competing European producers.
“We’ll have to wait until the end of the year when any vagaries may have been ironed out,” he added.