According to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), China imported an unprecedented amount of pork and pork products from overseas last year, bringing in more than 4.2 billion pounds in 2008.
The massive amounts of imports, which included 2.6 billion pounds of pork variety meats and 1.7 billion pounds of pork cuts, almost doubled the previous record of 2.2 billion pounds imported by Japan in 2005.
Although the totals are not in yet, the federation believes that the U.S. portion made up about 17 percent of China's totals with 851 million pounds of pork and pork products worth about $700 million.
"The volume demonstrates the huge influence China can have on global markets when supply and demand become imbalanced, said Joel Haggard, senior vice president of USMEF's Asia Pacific region. The import volume, though huge, represents less than 5 percent of Chinas consumption."
Although China has been ramping up its imports of pork, Russia has been cutting back. Last week Russia banned imports from nine U.S. pork processing plants including a North Carolina facility owned by Smithfield Food which is the largest in the world.