Shipments of US beef to Japan increased by 12% in volume and 5% in value to $707.2m (£543.6m) over the first six months of the year, the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) has reported.
US producers, in line with other suppliers, get hit with a 38.5% tariff rate on beef exports to Japan. Australian producers pay a 30.5% tariff for chilled beef and 27.5% for frozen, thanks to the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement, which came into effect at the start of 2015.
Japan is one of the world’s leading importers of beef and imported close to 500,000 tonnes of fresh and frozen beef in 2015, according to data published in 2016 by UK levy board AHDB. Between them, the US and Australia account for around 90% of Japan’s beef imports.
Australia losing ground
Despite the lack of a level playing field, Japanese imports of US chilled beef have climbed more than 50% in the last six months.
The US Department of Agriculture has also revealed that Australia’s market share has fallen by 5% so far in 2016 and now accounts for just 52%.
The US beef industry has nevertheless called for urgent ratification of the recently negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership to ensure US producers do not remain at a competitive disadvantage.
TPP movement in Washington
“US beef faces a significant tariff rate disadvantage in Japan, and this gap will grow larger unless and until the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is ratified,” said USMEF president and chief executive Philip Seng.
“However, the US industry needs to capitalise on its opportunities,” Seng said. “We’re pushing well beyond the forequarter cuts traditionally marketed in Japan, and consumers are responding in a very positive way.”
The White House submitted a proposal to Congress on 12 August to implement TPP.
Ratification is not considered likely until after the election on 8 November that will see either Republican Donald Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton become the 45th US president.