Swine Fever? Trade War? China Turns to Strategic Pork Reserve

The tariff fight has added to Chinese shoppers’ grocery bills. How is the government coping? By tapping its gigantic stockpile of emergency meat.


By Wang Yiwei and Raymond Zhong, The New York Times (NYT) 

Oct. 7, 2019


BEIJING — When supplies of China’s favorite meat run low, Beijing calls upon its strategic pork reserve, a name that brings to mind vast piles of sausages, bacon and spareribs housed in secret underground vaults across the country.


That’s not quite how it works. But China’s pork reserve is real, and it is basically a carnivore’s version of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which keeps the United States flush with oil during emergencies. Pork prices in China today are skyrocketing, the result of an epidemic that is ravaging the country’s hogs, and the government has been drawing upon its reserves to lift supplies for shoppers.


The trade war with the United States hasn’t helped — China’s retaliatory tariffs have made imports of American food and agriculture products more expensive. As the two countries’ negotiators meet this week in Washington for another round of trade talks, ballooning grocery bills are adding to the pressure on Beijing to reach a deal.


Last month, 30,000 metric tons of pork from the national reserve was sold into the market ahead of Oct. 1, the 70th anniversary of modern China’s founding. A batch of 9,600 tons was released in January, shortly before Chinese New Year. Local governments have also tapped their stores.


China is hardly alone in stockpiling food at gigantic scale. The Canadian province of Quebec, famously, has a maple syrup reserve. Until not that long ago, the United States had a national raisin reserve.


But yes, the idea of a strategic pork reserve raises some questions. Let’s take them in turn.


Why does China have a pork reserve? ...


How much pork are we talking about? ...


Where is all that pork kept? ... 


How does strategic reserve pork taste? ... 


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