Japan’s January pork/pork variety meat imports were 70,298 metric tons (mt), down 19 percent from the record-high results of January 2014. The decrease was spread across several major suppliers, but much of it was attributable to smaller chilled volumes from the United States (9,760 mt, -41 percent), reflecting severe congestion in the West Coast ports. Frozen pork imports from the U.S. were moderately higher at 5,661 mt (+7 percent) but imports of ground seasoned pork were lower (6,559 mt, -34 percent), putting combined total imports from the United States at 24,404 mt, down 29 percent.
After a huge year in 2014, January imports from the EU were down 14 percent year-over-year to 21,871 mt. Importers looked to Canada for chilled pork, with January imports up 5 percent to 8,638 mt. However, this did not fully offset smaller volumes of frozen Canadian pork (2,240 mt, -36 percent), as total imports from Canada were down 4 percent to 12,631 mt.
Japan’s inventories of frozen imported pork declined seasonally in December, but remained 32 percent higher year-over-year. Japan’s pork production declined 3.5 percent in 2014, totaling 884,461 mt. December inventories of domestic pork were down nearly 10 percent from a year ago. This helps explain the high January prices for domestic pork carcasses, which were up 20 percent from last year in yen terms and averaging $2.01 per pound. Supplies of chilled pork are reportedly tight, also a reflection of West Coast port congestion.
The port situation was also evident in Japan’s January beef/beef variety meat imports, as chilled volume from the U.S. dropped 46 percent to just 3,193 mt. Total imports from all suppliers were down only slightly (37,666 mt, -1 percent) and import value actually increased 19 percent to $248.6 million, reflecting higher prices for all main suppliers. Larger frozen imports (20,315 mt, +5 percent) helped offset the decline in chilled (12,745 mt, -11 percent). This included an increase in frozen beef from the United States (8,188 mt, +23 percent) and larger volumes from New Zealand and Mexico. Chilled imports from Australia capitalized on the U.S. port congestion, increasing 13 percent to 8,580 mt. Australia’s frozen volume was down 20 percent to 8,292 mt.
Japan’s frozen inventory of imported beef in December was up 12 percent year-over-year, while volumes of domestic product were down 17 percent. Japan’s 2014 beef production was down 1 percent to 351,539 mt. Relatively tight domestic supplies were reflected in Japan’s high January prices for domestic wagyu (+31 percent in yen terms, averaging $8.16/lb) and dairy steer carcasses (+18 percent in yen, averaging $3.58/lb).
Sources: Global Trade Atlas and Japan’s Agriculture and Livestock Industries Corporation