soybean field

USSEC Remains Optimistic about Soybean Exports to China in the Face of Bird Flu

A recent outbreak of the H7N9 virus, commonly referred to as “bird flu” or “avian influenza,” has affected poultry demand in Eastern China by 70-80% and has raised China’s food safety concerns.  As tens of thousands of birds have been culled in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus or to avoid further loss because of sharp decline in poultry consumption, demand for soybean imports have fallen with fewer birds to feed.

USSEC Country Director Xiaoping Zhang explains the situation, “The source of the virus is still a mystery.  As some victims were in close contact with live birds, which do not show symptoms of the disease, the government closed live bird markets.  Some of the victims had never been in close contact with live birds and no one close to the victims was infected.  The human disease situation, which is a very tiny percentage of the entire population, has been eased, but it will take some time for consumers to recover their confidence.”
He continues, “The Chinese government’s efforts in fighting the spread of the virus by closing the markets, culling birds and the naming of the disease as ‘Avian Influenza’ frightened consumers.”  Mr. Zhang, however, does advise cautious optimism about the demand for soybeans:  “Summer months are already the low season for meat consumption.  I personally think that the demand for soybean meal will begin catching up starting in July and August in order to supply meat for the National Day holidays in October.”
China's soybean imports have risen for eight consecutive years, rising to 58.39 million tons (MT) in 2012 from 10.43 MT in 2000, driven by rising wealth and demand for high-protein food such as pork, poultry and seafood.  China now accounts for half of the world pork consumption and nearly 15 percent of the global poultry production.  China’s soybean imports in 2012-2013 could still be in line with last year's level because of strong growth in pork consumption, according to the China National Grain & Oil Information Center.