China's Hitting the U.S. Where It Hurts: In the Pork Belly

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(Bloomberg) -- China struck back at U.S. import tariffs with its own set of reciprocal ones targeting, among other products, pork.

The world’s biggest pork producer, consumer and importer is planning a 25 percent tax on U.S. pork imports, the Ministry of Commerce said in a statement on Friday. The tariffs would be in addition to current duties.

China’s plans for reciprocal tariffs on $3 billion on products from pork to wine come in response to steel and aluminum duties ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month. Agricultural commodities could be a feature of any ongoing tit-for-tat trade war. China is already investigating sorghum imports from the U.S. and people familiar with the matter said last month that the country was studying the impact of restrictions on U.S. soybeans, used to feed the Asian country’s pigs.

“China is showing its capacity to fight back,” said Monica Tu, an analyst at Shanghai JC Intelligence Co. The measures aren’t expected to “impact fundamentals a lot,” she said, as imports from the U.S. only account for about 14 percent of China’s purchases.

Still, China and Hong Kong combined is the second-biggest market for U.S. pork, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation. Analysts at Vertical Group said this week that U.S. pork was an “easy target” for China, citing a decline in its domestic pork and hog prices.

The National Pork Producers Council warned that possible Chinese tariffs on U.S. pork could have a significant negative impact on rural America. “No one wins in these tit-for-tat trade disputes, least of all the farmers and the consumers,” it said in a statement.

Market Moves

WH Group Ltd., the world’s largest pork company, dropped 4.7 percent. The company acquired U.S. pork and hog producer Smithfield Foods Inc. in 2013. Shares of Muyuan Foodstuff Co., the country’s third-biggest pig breeder, rose 0.6 percent. Guangdong Wens Foodstuffs Group Co., the largest pig breeder, advanced 3.7 percent. New Hope Liuhe Co., China’s top animal-feed producer, added 0.1 percent. Jiangxi Zhengbang Technology Co., a feed producer, increased 2 percent.

Soybean meal on Dalian Commodity Exchange climbed as much as 4.3 percent to 3,128 yuan ($494) a metric ton before closing 1.5 percent higher at 3,046 yuan. The surge reflects concerns that an expansion in tariffs could impact the supply of U.S. soybeans to China, according to Tu.

A consolidation of China’s pig industry has seen small farms shut due to environmental concerns, while large-scale operations are expanding. The country’s pork imports are forecast to decline in 2018 as an increase in domestic production reduces the need to buy meat from overseas, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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