Asia Pacific tipped as ‘important’ pork market

UK pork exporters have been told to consider the Far East as a potential market.

This was highlighted in the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board’s (AHDB) Pork ‘Asia- are UK pork exports up to the challenge?’ report.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said that the expected rise of the middle class in the region will result in meat consumption rising to 80kg per capita by 2030. With “low efficiency, backyard production systems” as the main production methods, ADHB Pork said it is likely imported products will come into play to meet the demand.

At 37,500 tonnes (t) of shipped weight (sw) of pork during the first 11 months of 2016, China grew to be the top destination for exported UK pork.  

“A further 10,000t were sent to Hong Kong, an important hub for the re-export of product to the Asian region,” said the levy board. “The increase in shipments of pork cuts reflects not only the decline in domestic pig production, but also an increasing demand for muscle as opposed to more traditional offal-based dishes.”

AHDB Pork said that virtually all of the pork that exported China and Hong Kong is frozen. Subsequently, most of the product ends up in manufacturing, local food service sectors and traditional markets.

“Looking forward, as China becomes increasingly able to support a temperature-controlled supply chain, opportunities to export premium fresh pork for the high-end retail and foodservice sectors may also progress.”

The volume of offal shipments to the region were above year earlier levels between January and November 2016, at 47,000t to the Greater China area. This made up three quarters (75%) of total UK pork offal value.

The UK is also able to export pork to the Philippines, South Korea and Japan – although it does not export to the latter due to fierce competition.

Whilst UK exporters have been told of the opportunities, they would have to overcome competition. For example, US supplies are in abundance and prices are falling, which the levy board predicts will result in an increase to China and Hong Kong. Brazilian pork also secured a larger market in 2016.

“Other countries in the Far East could be a promising pork export destinations for the UK in the future, if access can be obtained,” said AHDB Pork. It named Vietnam as an example, as pork is its the country’s prominent protein source.

“While a consumer preference for warm, fresh meat from local markets could restrict the reach of imported product, limitations to local production may buoy import demand as consumption grows. The product mix is likely to be similar to China, with frozen volumes being utilised in the manufacturing and local food service sectors.”

Another potential market is Taiwan. Once again, a growing population is expected to result in increased meat consumption. The UK is yet to gain market access for pork exports.

“Overall, while it is clear there are opportunities for pork exporting nations to target the Far East region in the coming years, these opportunities will not be without challenge,” explained the levy board.

“For the UK, it will not only be necessary to obtain further low-tariff/tariff-free access to up-and-coming markets, but also to carve a product niche that competes successfully against lower cost producers such as the US and Brazil.”

To overcome these obstacles it was suggested that UK exporters target the premium market, or focus on adding value to cuts undesirable in the UK.

“Nonetheless, gaining market share will not be easy, as Japan currently illustrates,” the report concluded.

“Despite this, with the uncertainty surrounding the future of UK-EU trade relations in light of Brexit, exploiting the opportunities presented by the growing Asian markets where possible, may become increasingly important for the future of UK pigmeat exports.”

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