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
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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

Which businesses are allowed to reopen right now? And which businesses are actually doing so?

As a patchwork of states start to reopen, businesses that fall into a gray area are wondering when they can reopen. In many places, salons are still shuttered. Bars are mostly closed, too, although restaurants may be allowed to ramp up, depending on the state. “It’s kind of all over the place,” said Elizabeth Milito of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Will you be able to go on vacation this summer?

There’s no chance that this summer will be a normal season for vacations either in the U.S. or internationally. But that doesn’t mean a trip will be impossible. People will just have to be smart about it. That could mean vacations closer to home, especially with gas prices so low. Air travel will be possible this summer, even if it is a very different experience than usual.

When does the expanded COVID-19 unemployment insurance run out?

The CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March, authorized extra unemployment payments, increasing the amount of money, and broadening who qualifies. The increased unemployment benefits have an expiration date — an extra $600 per week the act authorized ends on July 31.

You can find answers to more questions here.

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