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Charts of the Day: China’s Growing Meat Consumption

China’s dinner tables will be getting meatier over the next decade, which will have a significant impact on the international agriculture trade, according to an outlook report published by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

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In 2026, an average Chinese citizen is expected to consume 55 kilograms (121 pounds) of meat per year, up 10% from 2017. Pork will remain Chinese people’s favorite meat in the years to come, making up about 60% of all meat consumption, followed by poultry, beef and veal, and mutton and lamb, according to the report.

The country’s insatiable appetite for pork has made it heavily dependent on imports of soybeans, a key feed for China’s swine. The oilseed, also used to make cooking oil and products like tofu and soy sauce, has found itself on the front line of the escalating trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies as it is one of the few areas where the U.S. runs a trade surplus — China accounted for 60% of its total soybean exports in the 2016-17 crop year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

China’s Feed Industry Association has been considering the establishment of minimum levels of proteins for animal feeds. The draft guidelines (link in Chinese) came amid rising concerns that China might not be able to counter a decline in U.S. exports from alternative import sources. 

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After Beijing hit American soybean producers with a 25% import levy on July as part of the tit-for-tat tariff, China has mostly been turning to Brazil for additional imports. But as Brazil approaches the end of its season and Argentina’s crop has been devastated by drought, analysts are pessimistic that they will be able to boost shipments.

Contact reporter Charlotte Yang (yutingyang@caixin.com)

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