Japan’s 2014 Pork Imports Record-Large on Surge from EU; Beef Imports Edge Lower


Japan’s 2014 pork/pork variety meat import volume was record-large at 1.048 million metric tons (mt) valued at $5.25 billion – up 9 percent year-over-year in both volume and value. Imports broke the 2005 volume record (1.022 million mt), reflecting a surge in frozen pork from the European Union.

The United States remained Japan’s leading pork supplier at 414,893 mt (-2 percent), but U.S. market share slipped to 39.6 percent – dropping below 40 percent for the first time since 2007. Imports from the EU (326,149 mt, +38 percent) were the largest since 2004, capturing 31 percent market share. Imports were also larger from Canada (172,995 mt, +5 percent) and Mexico (67,439 mt, +4 percent). Chilled imports increased 2 percent to 300,058 mt, as growth from Canada (101,107 mt, +16 percent) and Mexico (11,194 mt, +33 percent) offset smaller U.S. volumes (187,709 mt, -5 percent).

Japan’s inventories of imported pork finally dropped in November after building steadily for nine months. But even with this decline, inventories were still up 40 percent year-over-year. Japan’s pork production (through November) was 805,037 mt, down 3.3 percent compared to the same period in 2013. A sharp decline in November production helped explain the November-December spike in Japan’s hog carcass prices, which were up 22 percent year-over-year. 2014 prices averaged $2.41 per pound, up 7 percent in U.S. dollars and 16 percent higher in yen compared to 2013.

Japanese beef imports

Japan’s 2014 beef/beef variety meat imports were down 2 percent to 587,323 mt, although value increased 6.5 percent to $3.5 billion. Imports from the United States were up 2 percent in volume (221,762 mt) and 11 percent in value ($1.5 billion). This reflected growth in frozen beef (105,147 mt, +5 percent) and variety meat (32,950 mt, +7 percent), while chilled beef volume (83,528 mt, -3 percent) was lower.

Imports from Australia (305,675 mt, -1 percent) reflected smaller frozen volumes (155,385 mt, -9 percent), but chilled beef (125,457 mt, +8.5 percent), variety meat (19,553 mt, +2 percent) and processed beef (5,279 mt, +9 percent) increased.

Imports were lower from New Zealand (28,825 mt, -14 percent) and Mexico (12,033 mt, -44 percent), but larger for Canada (16,411 mt, +8 percent).

Japan’s beef production (through November) was down 1 percent year-over-year to 317,875 mt. Wagyu carcass prices averaged 2 percent higher than in 2013, while dairy steer prices were up 7 percent (in yen). Prices in U.S. dollars averaged $7.53 per pound and $3.53 per pound, respectively.

Sources: Global Trade Atlas and Japan’s Agriculture and Livestock Industries Corporation