Daily Brief: Things In China Are Looking More And More Like They Did In 2020

Daily Brief: Things In China Are Looking More And More Like They Did In 2020

almost 2 years ago3 mins

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Fresh data out on Monday showed that Chinese trade barely grew in April, as the country continues to struggle to leave the past behind.

What does this mean?

Shanghai – home to the world’s biggest shipping port – has been rocked by Covid lockdowns for five weeks now, as China scrambles to keep that airborne little minx out of circulation. And the cracks are starting to show: the value of Chinese exports shipped in April was up just 4% from the same time last year – well down on March’s 15%, and the smallest uptick since the depths of the pandemic in June 2020. To add insult to injury, domestic demand seems to be falling too: the value of imports didn’t grow at all, even as the prices of oil, metals, and other commodities have gone to the moon.

China trade
Source: AFP, China customs

Why should I care?

The bigger picture: Snitches get stitches.

Thing is, international trade is still going strong. Just look at South Korea, whose exports – a key indicator of world trade given the range of products it manufactures – climbed 13% last month from the same time last year. Analysts, then, are speculating that importers will turn away from China and instead start looking for alternatives – India and Vietnam, say. And while the Chinese government claims that production is getting back on track, the story on the ground is very different: a host of Japanese and German businesses based in the country have said that their factories are either shut, or they might as well be.

Zooming out: China can’t have cake, eat it too.

These lockdowns are impacting China in other ways too, with data out this week showing that more than half of US companies have delayed or cut investment in their Chinese segments. What’s more, the unemployment rate just hit its highest level since May 2020. So while the country’s target of 5.5% economic growth this year is its lowest in 30 years, it’s still looking more ambitious than ever.

China unemployment

Keep reading for our next story...

Tyson Foods Reported Booming Quarterly Results

Tyson image

Tyson Foods reported better-than-expected quarterly results on Monday, as the US meat producer pursues a utopia where everyone eats protein morning, noon, and night.

What does this mean?

Tyson’s honorable mission hit a road bump last quarter: the company sold 2% less of its meat products than the same time last year, mostly because it couldn’t get hold of the workers and supplies it needed. On the other hand, that slump was more than offset by an 18% average price hike, as well as by more efficient production lines that slashed costs. That helped overall profit come in 75% higher than the same time in 2021. And since the company is confident this trend will continue, it upped its full year revenue outlook too.

Tyson results

Why should I care?

Zooming in: The US has beef with Tyson.

Tyson’s results expose just how fast food prices are climbing, but this rising tide isn’t exactly lifting all boats: data shows that farmers’ share of the price of beef is at its lowest in decades. They blame that on the outsized influence of a few meatpackers on the industry, with companies like Tyson and Brazil’s JBS having been involved in chicken and pork price-fixing scandals in the past. And while those companies have been hit with fines worth hundreds of millions, they don’t seem to have learned their lesson: the US government’s now looking into their latest round of “price gouging”.

Farmers’ share

The bigger picture: Live life on the veg.

Bad news for Tyson: new analysis has shown that meat and plant-based alternatives now cost almost the same thing. That matters because consulting firm Kearney has previously said that the plant-based sector could grow exponentially if it can get its products prices on a par with meat prices. That might be why the sector is now projected to grow 15% a year to become a $13 billion industry by 2030.

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