DENVER – U.S. Meat Export Federation Chairman Jon Caspers spent a week at the recent World Pork Conference in Qingdao, China, and while there he made a presentation regarding the U.S. pork industry. Mr. Caspers, a pork producer from Swaledale, Iowa, said in an interview from the conference that he is impressed with the progress China’s pork industry has made in recent years, however he questions its ability to become self-sufficient in pork production.

While China is by far the world’s largest producer of pork, he feels there are several factors that will continue to make China an attractive export market for the U.S. and other pork-producing nations.

"China certainly has a significant role on pork production in the world," he said. "They represent about half of the world production of pork. They feed a population of about 1.3 billion people. In the world of pork production, it’s almost like there’s China -- and then there’s the rest of the world. Being here and just seeing the demand for food, the growth in the economy, [I can see] they face some huge challenges. In the case of the environment, there are a lot of challenges there. How do you expand production and not negatively impact the environment? That’s going to be a key question in the future.

There are also concerns about the availability of arable land, he added. "We’re actually losing ground to other uses and so arable land is decreasing," he added. "At the time you have greater demand for food and feed products, you’re losing the land base in which they’re produced. It’s a question of how do they remain competitive in production?"

Despite these challenges, Mr. Caspers said the development of China’s pork industry is a promising sign. "I think the future of the pork industry in China is actually extremely positive," he added. "They have made great strides in a short period of time. It’s not been very long since the economy became really open ...we’ve seen what happens when the population has the benefit of being able to go out to produce for their own benefit so I think with that backdrop the future of the pork industry in China is extremely positive. It’s probably one of the fastest-growing markets, certainly percentage wise, but just in sheer size it makes it by the far the leading market for growth in the world today."

Mr. Caspers, along with two fellow U.S.M.E.F. officers and chief executive office Philip Seng, planned to travel South Korea after visiting China to receive a briefing on demand for U.S. beef in that key export market. They will conclude their time in Asia with a stop in Tokyo to assess the impact of the recent Japanese elections.