COVID-19

U.S. meat is increasingly being shipped to China, Reuters analysis shows

Nova Safo, David Brancaccio, and Alex Schroeder May 11, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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Smithfield, which is now owned by a Chinese firm, was the biggest exporter of American pork to China in the first quarter. Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

U.S. meat is increasingly being shipped to China, Reuters analysis shows

Nova Safo, David Brancaccio, and Alex Schroeder May 11, 2020
Smithfield, which is now owned by a Chinese firm, was the biggest exporter of American pork to China in the first quarter. Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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We’ve been reporting on shortages in U.S. supermarkets with meat processing plants closed after workers were getting sick from the coronavirus.

Now, data has emerged that U.S. meat is still being shipped overseas, especially to China.

China has been ramping up its purchases of American meat products, because it’s faced its own shortages “due to a pig disease called African swine fever that’s led to the death of half the country’s herd over the past two years,” Reuters reports.

Also, in January, the Trump administration signed a deal to ease the trade war with China, and that included commitments from the Chinese to buy more American farm exports.

According to government data analyzed by Reuters, China has been buying.

Pork supplies are down about 40% since mid-March in the U.S., but pork shipments to China have quadrupled in that same time period. About a third of all U.S. produced pork has been exported so far this year.

President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act last month to keep meat plants open to bolster U.S. supplies. How does that square with what the data is showing?

If you look at the first quarter, January to March, the company Smithfield, which is owned by a Chinese firm, was the biggest exporter of American pork to China. Keep in mind, there are things being shipped that Americans don’t eat, such as pig’s feet.

Smithfield says it’s now retooling one of its plants here in the U.S. to make more meat for American consumers. Another major meat processor, JBS, says it has reduced its exports to meet U.S. demand.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

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Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out recently from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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