Exhibitors from Argentina said they received a positive reception at the Foodex show in March, where importers, restaurateurs and consumers visited the country’s first beef showcase at Asia’s largest food and drink exhibition, held near Tokyo. Argentine pavilion exhibitors reported that many attendees tasted their meat for the first time.
Argentine beef was banned in Japan following outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease more than 15 years ago. Before the lifting of the ban, Argentine could export only heat-treated meat to Japan. Now, exports of boneless beef, bone-in beef and offal are possible, albeit only from the country’s southern Patagonia region, where there have been no cases of foot-and-mouth disease since 2001.
With chilled and frozen boneless beef imports from all sources totalling US$3.2 billion in 2017, Argentine exporters have decided to become more proactive in targeting this market. According to data from the United States’ Department of Agriculture, Argentina’s beef exports to all destinations for 2019 are set to rise by 15% year-on-year to 585,000 tonnes, a 10-year high.
A spokesperson for the Argentine Beef Promotion Institute (IPCVA), which supported the showcase at Foodex, welcomed this interest in Japan, describing the country as “a premium market, highly covered by all meat producers worldwide”.
The IPCVA said it hoped the start of beef imports from Patagonia would be the first step to the rest of the country gaining access to Japan’s beef market.
Nicolás Lotrecchiano, export manager at Argentina beef producer Fridevi and member of the Argentine Cooperatives Association, attributed interest in Argentine beef to more Japanese people visiting the growing number of Argentine restaurants in Europe. Yet, he said, more needed to be done to promote the high quality of the country’s meat.
“Our focus is on super-quality cuts, which can compete with any kind of beef in the world,” he told GlobalMeatNews, adding that Argentina’s grass-fed cattle resulted in tasty, less-marbled and therefore healthy meat. Fridevi began its beef exports to Japan in July, with a 200kg shipment.
“We’ve started with small lots, working with two or three importers,” he said of progress so far.
Producers are seeking to tap Japan’s high-end market, with cuts of striploin, tenderloin, rib eye, chuck, brisket and topside.
Since the ban was lifted, the IPCVA has organised promotions in Tokyo, including events for importers, distributors and representatives of hotel chains and luxury restaurants, with more planned this year.