Japan’s pork/pork variety meat imports in March were up 7 percent from a year ago to 82,087 metric tons (mt). Growth was driven by the EU (22,261 mt, +24 percent) while imports from the U.S. were up slightly (34,783 mt, +1 percent).
For the first quarter, Japan’s total imports were up 6 percent to 242,928 mt with larger volumes from the U.S. (102,818 mt, +1 percent) and EU (65,185 mt, +14 percent). Chilled imports were up 18 percent to 76,478 mt, including growth from both the U.S. (49,370 mt, +10 percent) and Canada (24,816 mt, +39 percent).
Frozen pork imports of 109,447 mt were 5 percent lower year-over-year and down 20 percent from the first quarter of 2012. The big drop in volume has been from the U.S. and Canada, each down roughly 40 percent from a year ago and down 60 percent from 2012. These declines have been only partially offset by increases from the EU (+14 percent year-over year and +17 percent from 2012), Mexico (+32 percent and +49 percent) and Chile (+10.5 percent and +12 percent).
Japan’s inventories of imported pork in February were down 9 percent from a year ago, partly reflecting challenges in the frozen trade. Domestic pork production was up slightly in the first two months of 2014, but like several pork-producing countries Japan continues to struggle with porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV). Japan’s wholesale pork prices reflect the tight supply situation. Prices for domestic cuts are up strongly compared to a year ago, including bellies (+48 percent), loins (+40 percent), butts (+37 percent) and picnics (+32 percent).
Japan’s beef/beef variety meat imports in March were down 6 percent from a year ago to 42,048 mt, with double-digit declines from Australia and New Zealand. Imports from U.S. were up sharply (17,396 mt, +61 percent), but keep in mind that imports from the U.S. following the expansion to under-30-month cattle didn’t really ramp up until April of last year.
For the first quarter, Japan’s total imports were up 3 percent to 120,074 mt, including a large increase in U.S. beef (46,950 mt, +64 percent). The growth in total imports was driven mainly by higher volumes of variety meat (12,239 mt, +29 percent), including large imports of U.S. beef tongue.
First-quarter chilled imports were steady with last year at 45,551 mt, with an increase from the U.S. (17,672 mt, +9 percent) partially offset by smaller volumes from Australia and New Zealand. Frozen imports of 60,646 mt were up 1 percent from a year ago, including a large increase from the U.S. (22,466 mt, +157 percent). Frozen imports were lower from other main suppliers, including Australia (30,775 mt, -20 percent), New Zealand (5,029 mt, -13 percent) and Canada (1,347 mt, -25 percent).
Japan’s wholesale beef prices in April were mixed compared to the previous month, with Australian short-fed briskets and chuck rolls moving lower (but still higher year-over-year) and U.S. ribeye and chuckeye rolls steady (+30 percent and +40 percent, respectively, year-over-year). The largest increases compared to March were for U.S. short plate and Australian mid-fed full sets, each up 14 percent.
Japan’s February inventories of imported beef were up 35 percent from a year ago, but continued to trend seasonally lower after peaking in October of last year.
Sources: Global Trade Atlas, Agriculture and Livestock Industries Corporation of Japan and USMEF-Tokyo