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China low on a strategic reserve: pork.

Last year, the world's largest hog producer was forced to look abroad to feed its growing appetite for pork. China imported nearly 2 million tons of pig meat in 2008, up from only 700,000 tons in 2007, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation. This was the largest single-year importation of pork by one country and nearly doubled the record set by Japan in 2005.


A leading contributor was blue ear pig disease, a virus that spread through 25 of China's 33 provinces and regions in 2007--08. A sever ice storm and the 2008 earthquake in sichuan province also killed millions of pigs and led to the slaughter of many more due to feed shortages. Meanwhile, rising grain costs dissuaded many Chinese farmers from raising pigs.

Further constraints on grain and pork supplies are expected as meat diets become more popular. People in developing countries now eat 30 kilograms of meat per capita annually, more than twice the quantity of 25 years ago. In industrialized countries, meat consumption has remained relatively consistent since it peaked at 83 kilograms per person in 1990.

Pork now constitutes 39 percent of global meat production, the highest share of any animal, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Meat production is projected to nearly double by 2050, to more than 465 million tons. The effects of this boom on global climate could be significant: already, livestock are responsible for 18 percent of global emissions of carbon dioxide and 37 percent of emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas over 20 times more potent.

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Title Annotation:EYE ON EARTH
Author:Block, Ben
Publication:World Watch
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:May 1, 2009
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