The group of 25 Japanese meat buyers, led by USMEF staff in collaboration with senior beef and pork buyers from Hannan, embarked on the tour of Midwestern beef and pork plants to facilitate buyer-seller relationships and build awareness of new U.S. red meat cuts and the processors that supply them. The team also received a briefing from USMEF-Denver senior staff.
“In our day-to-day meetings with our customers, it is difficult for us to explain to them how the meat industry works in the United States,” said Yoshitaka Nishino, section chief of Hannan Corporation’s chilled pork team. “Since many of our customers also are distributors and wholesalers, seeing the American meat industry firsthand will help them talk more easily and confidently with their customers.”
“It is very important for us to be able to bring the buyers and the packers together,” said Takemichi Yamashoji, senior marketing director for USMEF-Japan. “Seeing the product in person and understanding what new cuts are available helps build their confidence in American beef and pork.”
The visit, which was funded jointly by Hannan and the USDA Market Access Program, included many of the company’s top customers, including Takizawa Ham, Hanshoku, Hankyu/Hanshin DP, Daiwa Shokuhin, Kobayashi, Nihon Meat, Daisan Meat, Seinan and others. For many of the visitors, this was their first visit to a U.S. meat processing plant.
“Hannan Corporation is one of the leading buyers of U.S. red meat around the world and a cornerstone of the Japanese meat industry,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “Hannan’s willingness to bring its top customers to the United States to introduce them to American beef and pork processors is a testament to its commitment both to our products and our relationship. Hannan is more than an importer. It is a true partner with USMEF in promoting U.S. beef and pork.”
Through the first four months of 2012, Japan is the leading importer of U.S. pork when measured by value, buying 161,933 metric tons (357 million pounds) valued at $700 million.
Japan also is the No. 3 export market for U.S. beef when measured by value. So far this year Japan has purchased 40,131 metric tons (88.5 million pounds) of beef valued at $265.4 million.
Japan’s Food Safety Commission (FSC) is currently examining that nation’s BSE-related restrictions on beef access. It is anticipated that the 20-month age limitation on U.S. beef exports to Japan will move to 30 months before the end of the year. The Hannan officials noted that they are anxiously awaiting the outcome of the FSC study, as is the U.S. beef industry.
In 2001, prior to the discovery of BSE in Japan and the U.S., Japan purchased 513,174 metric tons (1.13 billion pounds) of American beef valued at more than $1.6 billion. Those totals accounted for 40.3 percent of the volume and 47.5 percent of the value of U.S. beef exports that year.
“Japan’s consumers have an appetite for grain-fed American beef that no other supplier has been able to fill,” said Seng. “In anticipation of those access restrictions being reduced, we are building interest and fostering relationships to fuel an upsurge in demand. That is why it is essential that we cultivate partnerships with companies like Hannan and its customers. The minute the restrictions are eased, we will be ready to go.”