China May pork imports jump 86% on year

BEIJING, June 23 (Reuters) - China imported 370,000 tonnes of pork in May, up 86% on the same month a year ago, customs data showed on Tuesday, as buyers boosted overseas purchases after a collapse in domestic production.

Total pork imports for the first five months of the year came to 1.72 million tonnes, the General Administration of Customs said, surging by 146% on the same period a year ago.

Imports of pork including offal were 510,000 tonnes, up 62% on the year, and bringing total imports for this year to 2.28 million tonnes, the data also showed.

The huge purchases come after deadly African swine fever ravaged China's hog herd over the past two years, reducing pork output by almost a third in the first quarter and keeping prices of the country's favourite meat at record highs.

May pork imports were only slightly lower than April's record arrivals of 400,000 tonnes.

The strong monthly shipments came even as key suppliers including the United States and Brazil had to shut meat plants after workers were infected with the coronavirus.

Imports could slow however after one of China's major ports began testing meat shipments for COVID-19 last week, and customs stepped up inspections on all food.

That has helped to boost domestic pork prices <PORK-CN-TOT-D>, which had already begun climbing since mid-May after falling sharply in the prior three months. Prices are currently about twice the levels of a year ago.

Beef imports in May reached 140,000 tonnes, up 15% on a year ago, customs data also showed, with imports for the first five months at 820,000 tonnes, up 46%.

(Reporting by Dominique Patton; editing by David Evans)

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