China imports surge almost 40% in February

Chinese leaders will likely take heart from the import figures as they look to reconfigure the economy from one driven by exports and state investment to one based on domestic consumption. (Reuters)
Updated 08 March 2017

China imports surge almost 40% in February

BEIJING/ SHANGHAI: China’s imports surged almost 40 percent last month, data showed Wednesday, fueled by higher commodity prices and strong domestic demand, bolstering hopes that the world’s No. 2 economy is getting back on track.
The forecast-beating 38.1 percent year-on-year jump was almost twice as high as the 20 percent increase tipped in a Bloomberg News survey, while exports fell 1.3 percent, far below the 14 percent estimate.
The readings left China with a trade deficit of $9.15 billion, its first in three years.
Analysts said the February results owed to strong domestic demand, high international commodity prices and shifting timing of the Spring Festival holiday, which causes a slowdown in activity at factories and ports.
Leaders will likely take heart from the import figures as they look to reconfigure the economy from one driven by exports and state investment to one based on domestic consumption. The figures follow upbeat reports on fourth-quarter growth and February factory activity.
Imports surged as economic activity recovers and commodity prices increase, Wen Bin, a researcher at China Minsheng Banking Corp. in Beijing, told Bloomberg News.
“Exports missed estimates mostly because trade is generally very volatile in the first two months due to the Chinese New Year factor.”
However, the data come as a cloud of uncertainty hangs over global trade owing to fears US President Donald Trump will press on with a protectionist agenda and kick off a trade war with China, which he has repeatedly accused of currency manipulation and unfair trade practices.

Stocks dip
Meanwhile, China’s stocks edged lower, as small-caps pulled back amid lingering concerns over tighter liquidity. The CSI300 index fell 0.1 percent, to 3,449.45 points at the close, while the Shanghai Composite Index was barely changed at 3,241.18.
After an early-week rally led by technology shares, investors started to focus on longer-term factors such as liquidity situations and regional stability, while continuing to digest news flows from the annual meeting of China’s legislature.
Hedge fund manager Zhang Kaihua said an anticipated US rate hike next week “may prod China to tighten liquidity and increase money rates.”

Where’s the beef? Argentine cattle ranchers hope it’s heading to China

Updated 18 September 2019

Where’s the beef? Argentine cattle ranchers hope it’s heading to China

  • Surging sales to Beijing shake up global meat trade and deliver tasty windfall for Latin American giant

BUENOS AIRES: Cattle ranchers in Argentina, which recently edged out neighbor Brazil as the top exporter of beef to China, are hoping to build on that status by getting more local meatpacking plants approved by Beijing, industry officials and other sources told Reuters.

An Argentine industry group is currently in China looking to promote the South American country’s famed T-bone steaks and sirloins, while Chinese teams have recently inspected Argentine local meat plants, the sources said.

The push, after a massive spike in Argentine beef exports to the world’s No. 2 economy this year, underscores how China is looking to diversify its protein supply, shaking up the global meat trade as African swine fever hammers its domestic hog herd.

It is also an important windfall for Latin America’s third-biggest economy, which is battling to get out of a deep recession and facing a swirling debt crisis ahead of elections in October that will likely usher in a new government.

Argentina, which traditionally exports cheaper cuts to China, saw its beef sales to the country more than double to $870 million in the first seven months of the year, data from its official INDEC statistics agency shows.

Chinese customs data show that amounted to around 185,604 tons of Argentine beef, giving it the top share of the Chinese import market with 21.7 percent, slightly ahead of Brazil’s 21.03 percent. That volume was a jump of 129 percent against the year before.

Santiago del Solar, chief of staff to Argentina’s agriculture minister, told Reuters there were many slaughterhouses up for approval and that China was working closely with Argentine food safety body Senasa.

“We will have news in the coming months about more pork, poultry and beef slaughterhouses being approved for China,” he said, adding Senasa was doing some inspections on behalf of China using an “honor system.”

Argentina’s ranchers are now looking for more. A trade delegation is currently in China meeting with potential buyers of the country’s meat, an industry official with knowledge of the meetings said.

The person added that a Chinese team had also recently traveled to Argentina to visit local meat plants.

“The Chinese were there last week in Buenos Aires, they were doing inspections and made good progress. The plants issue is pretty good, but with China they make approvals when they want to do it,” he said.

“We are optimistic with the results. It seems they didn’t find anomalies, but yes, it depends on the time frame of the Chinese.”

The progress comes after China granted export licenses to 25 Brazilian meatpacking plants earlier this month. Brazil has also seen a surge in meat demand from China.

China’s General Administration of Customs, which approves new imports, also recently gave the green light to imports of soymeal from Argentina, following decades of talks between the two countries.

The customs body did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment from Reuters asking about new Chinese approvals for Argentine meat plants.

A second person, a manager at a state-owned Chinese trading house, said he had met with an Argentine firm last week during the delegation’s visit. He declined to name the firm, which had met with China customs officials, but said it had already been approved for exports and was seeking further plant approvals.

Miguel Schiariti, president of the CICCRA meat industry chamber, said a Chinese team had also recently done a video-conference inspection of an Argentine plant alongside Senasa, with the aim of approving the facility for export.

“There are 11 meat plants ready to be approved and (the Chinese) are doing it one by one. But approval is taking a long time,” he said.

“These places would meet the criteria for approval, but the Chinese have always been very cautious, despite the problems they have with pork. It seems to me that plants won’t get approved before November.”