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China may take provisional anti-dumping steps against EU pork imports

FILE PHOTO: Pigs are seen in a piggery at a village near Warsaw

By Mei Mei Chu and Joe Cash

BEIJING (Reuters) -China may impose provisional anti-dumping measures on pork imports from the European Union as part of a year-long probe that began on June 17, its commerce ministry said on Thursday.

China has opened an investigation into EU pork and its by-products, a step that appears mainly aimed at Spain, the Netherlands and Denmark, after the bloc imposed anti-subsidy duties on Chinese-made electric vehicles.

The investigation will focus on pork intended for human consumption, such as fresh, cold and frozen whole cuts, as well as pig intestines, bladders and stomachs.

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It is expected to be completed by June 17, 2025, but could be extended by another six months if required.

"If, after preliminary investigation, it is determined that dumping has been established and has caused injury to domestic industry, provisional anti-dumping measures may be taken," He Yadong, a commerce ministry spokesperson, said in response to reporters' question about the probe.

Global food companies have been on high alert for retaliatory tariffs from China since the European Commission announced on June 12 it would impose anti-subsidy duties of up to 38.1% on imported Chinese cars from July.

China imported $6 billion worth of pork, including offal, in 2023 and more than half of that came from the EU, according to Chinese customs data.

Spain is the biggest EU pork supplier to China, followed by the Netherlands, Denmark and France.

The measures could badly impact Europe because a large portion of the bloc's pork shipments to China are pig ears, noses, feet and offal that are only rarely consumed by Europeans.

The Spanish pork sector is ready to pivot to other markets again, said Alberto Herranz, director of Spain's pork producers' association Interporc.

Spanish Economy Minister Carlos Cuerpo told Reuters that a balance had to be found between promoting free commerce and protecting strategic interests.

"The same way we don't want a trade war, we want to avoid a subsidy race. We must be able to find a point where we compete, but fairly," he said.

China's Commerce Ministry said the investigation was prompted by a complaint from the China Animal Husbandry Association on behalf of the domestic pork industry.

Traders and analysts have said Beijing could turn to pork suppliers in Russia, which started exporting pork to China in February, as well as Brazil, Argentina and the U.S. to replace European supplies.

"China's domestic pig production capacity is sufficient and even if there are some gaps, it will quickly be supplemented by local supply," an executive with a large Chinese pig farm said.

The world's leading pig producer and consumer is also dealing with an oversupply of pigs that has weighed on domestic pork prices. Imports account for about 5% of China's total pork supply.

Governments typically place anti-dumping duties on imported goods to protect domestic firms when they suspect the goods in question are being sold for less than it cost to produce them.

(Reporting by Joe Cash; writing by Mei Mei Chu; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Miral Fahmy and Mark Heinrich)