China already consumes half the world’s pork. But to ensure it has a steady supply of hogs, it’s struck a deal with Britain to import $73.5 million worth of premium pig semen.
The agreement was brokered with the help of British Prime Minister David Cameron, who just completed a three-day visit to China.
“We’re doing all we can to ensure that businesses up and down the country reap the rewards from our relationship with China. And that includes our pig farmers,” said a statement from Cameron’s office, according to the Financial Times. “This new deal to export pig semen will mean Britain’s best pigs will help sustain the largest pig population in the world.”
The pig semen, both frozen and fresh, will reportedly be flown in starting early next year. Four artificial insemination centers based in England and Northern Ireland will be charged with extracting the valuable export, according to the Guardian.
"And we're not stopping there, we're talking to the Chinese about serving up pigs trotters on Beijing's finest dining tables. That would be a real win-win -- a multimillion-pound boost for Britain and a gastronomic treat for Chinese diners," a spokesman for the prime minister told the newspaper.
China leads the world in pork consumption at over 50 million tons last year. That’s five times as much as in the U.S.
But with its middle class growing and demand for meat soaring, ensuring an adequate supply of porcine protein is essential to the government for maintaining social stability.
In a show of its appetite, Shuanghui International Holdings, owner of China’s largest meat-processing business, bought Virginia's Smithfield Foods Inc., the world’s leading pork producer, for $7.1 billion earlier this year.
Beijing also runs a national frozen pork reserve to try to buffer shocks in market prices.
China is already the leading importer of U.S. grains such as soybeans to feed its swelling livestock population, but what it lacks is good breeding for efficiency.
A U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission report to Congress last month noted: “China produced five times more pork than the United States but required seven times as many hogs. Nor is productivity necessarily improving over time. China’s hog herd grew by 0.6% per annum in the 2000s, compared to 2.7% in the 1990s. China’s pork output slowed even more over the two decades, from 5.9% to 2.2% per year.”
Chris Jackson, export manager of the British Pig Assn., told the Financial Times that British swine grew faster, ate less food and reproduced far quicker than Chinese hogs.
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