Japan becomes biggest US export market

By Kathryn Wortley, in Tokyo

- Last updated on GMT

Japan becomes biggest US export market
Japan is now the United States’ leading export market for beef, in value and volume, and largest market for pork exports in value, according to 2017 trade data released by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In the past calendar year, Japan imported 307,559 metric tonnes of US beef, an increase of 19% year-on-year, worth USD1.89 billion, which marks a 25% increase in value year-on-year from 2016.

Chilled US beef exports saw most growth in Japan, up 32% in volume and 37% in value on the 2016 figures, and accounting for more than half of Japan’s chilled beef market.

According to an official from Japan’s Agriculture and Livestock Industries Corporation (ALIC), “in 2017, popular cuts (of shoulder, shin and thigh) and ribs each made up 40 percent of chilled US beef imports, while ribs accounted for 80% of frozen US beef imports.”

Dan Halstrom, president and CEO of the US Meat Federation (USMEF), said 2017 was “a remarkable year for beef exports in our mainstay markets in northern Asia”​, adding that “the US beef industry gained significant market share in Japan despite considerable obstacles, and posted record-breaking performance in South Korea and Taiwan.”

The USMEF also reported that Japan, in 2017, was a vital market for sales of US beef tongue (averaging USD12.13 per tongue) and short plate – a forequarter cut from the belly (averaging USD26.44 per cut).

The boom in sales seems to be continuing, with a 7% increase year-on-year in volume and a 19% rise in value for beef exports to Japan from the USA. The data from USMEF also shows a 30% increase in volume of chilled exports year-on-year for this month, despite a 13% decrease in volume of frozen exports.

Meanwhile, US exports of pork to Japan in terms of volume overtook that of Hong Kong and China in January 2018, making Japan the second-largest market for US pork exporters after Mexico. Chilled exports proved popular, rising 15% in volume and 21% in value on the January 2017 figures.

According to the ALIC official, a rising demand for loin used in pork cutlets, thought to be in part due to rising beef prices, has been driving Japanese pork consumption.

Forecasting 2018 US exports to Japan, a USMEF note stated that Japan “holds potential for additional growth [for beef cuts] but market access is a concern.”

This was mirrored by the ALIC official who said there was a lack of clarity regarding US exports because of possible influence from the new Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

This was signed on 8 March by the 11 countries that were within the previous Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that had included the USA, before President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal last year. It includes Japan, and other key meat exporters such as Canada and Mexico.

Related topics: Analysis, United States, Japan, Pork, Beef

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