The character for “house” (jia) in Mandarin Chinese is a pig under a roof: Far from being “the other white meat,” pork is basic to the Chinese diet. There’s over 446 million pigs in China, about one for every three people. 40 million tons of pork are eaten every year in China, says China Daily. All told, more than half of the meat consumed in China is pork; in some places, it’s 70 percent.
With China’s economic prosperity, demand for meat — for pork — has sharply risen with the average Chinese person eating four times as much pork in 2007 as he had in the early 1990s, the New York Times reports. But, due to prices declining 20 percent in the 15 months through March 2010, farmers reduced their herds, leading to tight supplies, says Wang Xiaoyue, an analyst at Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultant Co in China Daily.
Inflation is rising at the fastest rate in three years in China and food prices are hitting Chinese consumers hard. The price of pork up 38 percent since the start of the year in some urban areas. So the government has a plan, to put some of its central government’s 200,000-metric-ton stash of frozen pork on the market.
Yes, China has a pork reserve, or rather a frozen pork reserve, as the New York Times says:
The crush of demand for pork has made the supply vulnerable to all sorts of fluctuations, from epidemics of pig diseases to weather changes that affect the price of grain that fattens pigs. But a nation that runs on pork cannot afford to run short. So in 2007, the government decided to establish a national pork reserve, reasoning that a backlog of frozen meat could be used to make up for shortages and stabilize prices when necessary.
TIn practice, a strategic pork reserve has problems. Frozen meat does not keep for more than about four months, and live animals must be fed and constantly replenished to keep the reserve stable. In Shaoxing, a large city in coastal Zhejiang Province, the local government keeps a virtual reserve of pork by paying farmers a subsidy of 20 renminbi per pig — about $3 — to keep their herds at a set level.
I’m not sure I want to ask what you do with 200,000 metric tons of frozen pork that have gone bad.
As a testament that even the best laid plans can go to waste — and a tacit illustration of the size of China’s population — the New York Times says that, for all that frozen pork in China (200,000 metric tons is equivalent to about 220,000 tons), “the reserve is too small to make a dent in China’s demand, and so is unlikely to have a big impact on rising prices.” 200,000 metric tons of pork amounts to enough to meet only about one to two days of demand in China. Might China find the need for putting up even more hundreds of tons of frozen pork?
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