BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s first-quarter pork output jumped 14% from a year earlier to 15.61 million tonnes, data showed on Monday, after an increase in the size of its hog herd over the past year.
The volume was the highest for a quarter since the last quarter of 2018, according to calculations based on data from the National Bureau of Statistics.
China slaughtered 195.66 million hogs from January to March, an increase of 14.1% from the same period a year earlier.
Its pig herd fell to 422.53 million head at the end of March, from 449.22 million head at the end of December.
China’s pork output reached 52.96 million tonnes last year, just below the 53.4 million tonnes produced in 2017, the year before African swine fever began infecting herds.
The disease had wiped out about half of breeding farms by 2019. But production recovered much faster than expected, and is weighing on prices as lockdowns across China is lowering demand from restaurants.
Wholesale pork prices in the first week of April were half the level of a year ago at 18.21 yuan ($2.86) per kilogram, according to agriculture ministry data.
Despite mostly losing money since last summer, almost all top producers significantly expanded their first quarter sales due to investments in breeding farms over the last two years.
Top producer Muyuan Foods Co Ltd produced 80% more hogs in the first quarter compared with a year ago, company data shows, or 13.8 million pigs.
(Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Kim Coghill)