China / Cover Story

A lot on the plate

By Lu Chang (China Daily) Updated: 2012-03-31 07:54

China's growing demand offers many opportunities for overseas livestock and grain traders

Chicken feet, pig knuckles or cow tripe are hardly items that set the cash registers ringing at the export turnstiles. But in the global food markets, it is these leftover animal parts that are shaping the market trends as strong demand from China is providing the much-needed prop to meat and grain farmers.

Despite its humble nature, imports of pig offal - including pig's head and knuckles, often served as a cold, fun snack with beer - stood at 882,200 tons in 2011 and accounted for more than 65 percent of the total pig products imported in China.

Along with its robust economic growth and dietary enrichment, demand for meat has also been growing steadily in China. The nation is one of the world's largest consumers of pork, and its huge demand had a cascading effect on animal feed prices last year, particularly that of corn and soybean.

In 2011, China imported agricultural products worth nearly $95 billion, compared with just $12 billion in 2001. The 2011 figures also represented 30 percent year-on-year growth, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Along with the rising trade volumes, there has also been a growing trade deficit in the agricultural sector. In 2011, the trade deficit rose 47.4 percent to $34 billion, whereas in 2004, China was still a net agricultural exporter.

"China will become the world's largest agricultural product importer within the next five to 10 years," said Cheng Guoqiang, a senior researcher with the Development Research Center of the State Council.

China is already the world's largest importer of soybeans and cotton, and has been the largest agricultural export market for the US since 2010, with a total value tripling over the past six years to $17.8 billion. High on China's list of imports from the US are corn, soybeans, cotton and processed animal feed.

A lot on the plate

Previous Page 1 2 3 Next Page

Hot Topics