The COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected China’s imports and exports of agricultural products in the first quarter of 2020, with exports reaching the lowest level over the same period since 2012, an official of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said on Tuesday.
Sui Pengfei, director of the ministry’s international cooperation department, said at a news conference that the imports during the first quarter of 2020 were $37.08 billion, an increase of 8.9 percent which was lower than the growth rate over the same period in previous years, he said, adding that meat and soybeans were the major imported products.
Exports saw a decrease of 5.6 percent at $16.23 billion, marking the lowest export volume since the same period in 2012 with a year-on-year drop of 18 percent, and aquatic products were hit the hardest, he said.
The exports of vegetables and tea, which normally are China’s competitive products, also declined slightly, he added.
Sui said the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic is still severe in the world and thus it will continue to impact China’s agricultural trade.
Due to the pandemic, the international demand for agricultural products has shrunk and fallen sharply especially in restaurants, factories and schools, which was detrimental to the increase of orders for stable exports, he said, adding that their recent survey showed that many enterprises have encountered order cancellations since March.
As nearly 180 countries have imposed restrictions on foreign entry and exit, it has been difficult for enterprises to obtain orders via activities such as exhibitions. In addition, almost all major agricultural and aquatic exhibitions in the world have been canceled or postponed due to the pandemic.
Sui said lots of uncertainties remained in international production and supply. Although the supply of major agricultural products is generally abundant internationally, the lockdown and distancing measures as well as restrictions on exports in some countries have amplified market volatility and panic and thus increased risks for the international supply.
“According to our judgment, the trade situation in the second quarter is not very positive. The impact on exports will continue to grow,” he said, adding that the ministry will pay close attention to the global market and implement policies to stabilize foreign trade.