Canada exceeded the United States (U.S.) as the top North American supplier of pork to China, for the first time in nearly two decades. In the first quarter of 2017, Canada exported 93,000 metric tonnes (MT) of pork into China, compared to 87,500 MT from the United States. Based on these numbers, Canadian exports are expected to reach an all-time high at 372,000 MT (or 55% of the U.S.-Canada combined total), compared to 350,000 MT from the United States. China is the world’s largest importer of pork products, accounting for half of the world’s total consumption. Since 2006, the country’s pork imports, from the US and Canada, increased by 540%, from 105,438 MT in 2006 to 675,615 in 2016.
While U.S. exports of pork products to China nearly tripled from 117,397 MT in 2008, to 363,121 MT in 2016, Canadian exports increased by over seven-and-a -half times from 41,729 MT in 2006 to 312,494 MT in 2016. Consistent with this growth, the percentage of Canada’s share of the U.S.-Canada combined export total increased from 17% in 2008 to 28% in 2012 to 46% in 2016.
Competition for greater market access have been intensified in recent years, especially after Beijing’s decision to ban pork products that contain the growth drug ractopamine. The almost complete removal of this drug from Canadian pork, has in large part, permitted greater access to the Chinese market. U.S. producers are still behind in this respect, with only half of the country’s herd are grown without the use of ractopamine. However, in May of 2017, a Canadian shipment of pork products was flagged for containing the banned drug, casting uncertainly on the impact this will have on the future of country’s market access. Q2 2017 data will be critical for assessing what impact, if any, this has had on Canadian exports of pork products into China.