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China’s pork crisis: local banks offer meat to new customers

[Reading level: C1 – Advanced]

Handing out servings of expensive pork as a reward for opening an account is the latest gimmick being used by a growing number of small local banks across China to lure new depositors.


Banks are being forced to go to greater lengths to attract new deposits, since they generally earn less money from lending and have fewer funding options than their larger peers.


The fact that pork could be seen as a desirable reward for opening a bank account also speaks to the country’s massive shortage of its favourite staple meat.


On Monday, clients who deposited 10,000 yuan (US$1,430) or more in a three-month time deposit at the Linhai Rural Commercial Bank in Duqiao in Zhejiang province were then eligible to enter a lottery to win a portion of pork ranging from 500 grams to several kilograms.


“The money is still my own, and the interest is good. I’m happy to receive a piece of pork in addition,” one female client, who deposited around 20,000 yuan (US$2,900), was quoted as saying by the Metropolitan Express.


According to the newspaper, the bank distributed 1,097 deposit rewards on Monday after scores of mostly elderly clients queued up in front of the bank from early that morning.


“It was quite a good idea and very popular among locals, especially the elderly,” said a bank staff member. He refused to comment on how much money the bank had received in new deposits due to the promotion.


Other rural commercial banks in northern China’s Hebei province and western China’s Guizhou province have also launched similar pork rewards programmes.


Dushan Rural Commercial Bank, located in the remote mountainous county in Guizhou, offered a coupon for 10 yuan (US$1.4) worth of pork for every 10,000 yuan of new deposits.


The outbreak of African swine fever, which is reported to have killed over 100 million pigs in China, has sent the price of pork skyrocketing, with November’s consumer price index rising 4.5 per cent from a year earlier, up from a 3.8 per cent gain in October, in large part due to a 110.2 per cent increase in the price of pork.


Experts said that despite recent signs of improvement, the crisis may worsen further next year before it improves.


“It depends on what you mean on whether the worst is over because it’s already killed most of [China’s pigs]. There aren’t as many pigs to kill as there were before,” said E. Wayne Johnson, a veterinarian consultant at Enable AgTech Consulting in Beijing.


“We expect that there will be outbreaks in the wintertime because it’s very difficult to clean the trucks, particularly in the north of China, and the virus is preserved by cold weather. Plus, you have the fact that the infected pigs are continuing to go into the slaughterhouses, and everybody sends their trucks to the slaughterhouse. So the disease is being spread on the highways just as it was a year ago. There’s no reason to think that it’s over with.”






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