China's poultry consumption is expected to remain similar in 2016 to 2015, according to a report from the US Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service.The report forecasts China’s 2016 broiler meat consumption at 12.8 million tons, largely unchanged from the 2015 official estimate.
China banned imports of all poultry and poultry products from the US in January 2015 due to the highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreaks, but imports from Brazil and other South American countries have benefited from the absence of US suppliers.
The report forecasts 2016 broiler meat imports at 200 thousand tons, a decrease of 7 per cent compared to the 2015 figure.
High pork prices benefit poultry
Meat from white-feathered western type birds and yellow-feathered local breeds dominate China’s broiler meat production.
China’s 2016 broiler meat production is expected to be 13.1 million tons, mirroring USDA’s 2015 official figure.
A slight shift in consumption from pork to poultry meat underpins the production forecast. Poultry meat and pork are substitute meat options for Chinese consumers and pork prices are predicted to remain high in 2016 because of decreased sow stocks.
In January 2015, China banned US poultry imports because of avian flu detections. The ban impacts China’s white broiler meat production since it relies on the United States for grandparent breeding stock for its domestic production.
China has long favoured breeding stock from the United States as it tries to improve its own production efficiency, so a continued ban could result in lower 2017 production levels.
While some decline in white-feathered broiler meat is anticipated in 2016, an uptick in yellow broiler meat production will offset declines in white broiler production to maintain overall production levels.
Importers have looked to other sources for breeding stock, particularly to Europe. However, the potential resumption of US imports after avian flu is a challenge to increasing breeding stock production in those countries.
Consumer preferences changing with urbanisation
Broiler consumption in China is expected to remain flat in 2016.
The overall economic picture for China, slower economic growth, and constraints on banquet spending per government policy remain in place. Additionally domestic bird flu cases, food safety scandals, and media reports of smuggled meat sold to consumers conspire to restrain consumption.
Record high pork prices are encouraging consumers to move away from pork, but both yellow and white broiler meat producers still need to overcome other challenges to satisfy consumers.
Traditional yellow-feathered chicken producers must contend with the government’s desire to end live bird slaughtering in wet markets as part of its efforts to prevent avian flu from spreading to humans.
Additionally, they must contend with a combination of China’s urbanisation drive and the younger generation’s preference for processed chicken sold at fast food outlets and fresh/frozen broiler meat products sold in supermarkets.
White broiler meat consumption is hampered by association with past fast food scandals and health concerns. Single store sales at fast food restaurants are going down and sales increases are driven by new store openings.
Furthermore, the changing structure of the Chinese economy has closed many factories where white broiler meat was widely consumed in the workers canteens.
In the long term, the report expects white broiler meat will enjoy a larger market share over the domestic yellow-feathered variety because of its cost advantage, the lower feed to meat ratio, customised cuts, more advanced technology investments by the white broiler meat industry, and new marketing efforts to try to reach families directly.