Can $74 Million Worth of Pig Semen Heal the Rift Between Britain and China?

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Dec. 4 2013 4:18 PM

Can $74 Million Worth of Pig Semen Heal the Rift Between Britain and China?

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Power of the pork.

Photo by Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty Images

One of the main deliverables from British Prime Minister David Cameron’s trip to China seems to be a massive deal involving pig semen, the Financial Times reports:

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

The government believes the deal could be worth up to £45m a year to British companies, in combination with live pig exports, although some industry experts say the figure could be substantially less. British companies are currently prevented from exporting pig semen under Chinese biological safety rules.
Downing Street said: “We’re doing all we can to ensure that businesses up and down the country reap the rewards from our relationship with China. And that includes our pig farmers.
“This new deal to export pig semen will mean Britain’s best pigs will help sustain the largest pig population in the world.”
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Pigs are a big deal for the Chinese economy, with almost 446 million of them—one for every three people and more than the next 43 countries' combined. Fluctuations in global pork prices have drive the country’s exchange rate, and analysts have joked that CPI actually stands for "China Pork Index."

According to the FT, British pigs “grow faster, eat less food and, crucially, reproduce much more quickly than their Chinese counterparts,” so the hope is that superior sperm will help Chinese pork manufacturers keep up demand. This is the second major international Chinese pork deal of the year after Shuanghui International Holding's purchase of Smithfield Foods earlier this year, in the biggest Chinese takeover of a U.S. company ever.

This is Cameron’s first visit to China since controversy erupted over a meeting between the prime minister and the Dalai Lama last year. This visit wasn’t entirely without controversy, as Cameron publicly voiced his complaints about a British journalist from Bloomberg being barred from a press conference.

Cameron was also the target of a critical editorial in the Global Times, which urged him to “acknowledge that the UK is not a big power in the eyes of the Chinese. It is just an old European country apt for travel and study.”

Cameron’s been through this sort of thing before, but evidently decided this time not to give China the full Love Actually treatment.

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