Japan’s first-quarter pork/pork variety meat imports were down 10 percent from a year ago to 218,872 metric tons (mt), as smaller volumes from the United States (82,409 mt, -20 percent) and EU (59,852 mt, -8 percent) were not fully offset by growth from Canada (44,168 mt, +7 percent) and Mexico (18,144 mt, +8 percent). Imports from the EU have slowed significantly since the October 2014 peak, as Japan’s inventories of frozen imported pork remain large (February volume was up 16 percent year-over-year).
First-quarter chilled pork imports were also down 10 percent to 68,623 mt. Chilled imports from the U.S. fell 25 percent to 37,184 mt, although imports have shown a rebound from their January low. Chilled imports from both Canada and Mexico were record-large in March as buyers remained concerned about U.S. port congestion. For the quarter, imports from Canada increased 12 percent to 27,713 mt, while imports from Mexico were up 62 percent to 3,695 mt. Through February, Japan’s 2015 domestic pork production was down 6 percent year-over-year to 144,671 mt. Japan’s hog carcass prices dropped in March, declining 8 percent from the February high. Prices were still up 15 percent year-over-year in yen, averaging $2.16/lb., but this is a 2 percent drop in U.S. dollar terms.
Japan’s first-quarter beef/beef variety meat imports were down 1 percent from a year ago to 118,381 mt, smaller volumes from Australia (57,401 mt, -6 percent), the U.S. (44,650 mt, -5 percent) and New Zealand (7,102 mt, -6 percent) mostly offset by growth from Mexico (4,547 mt, +140 percent) and Canada (3,740 mt, +88 percent). Chilled import volume was down 5 percent to 43,265 mt. This included a 27 percent decline in chilled imports from the U.S. (12,939 mt), due in part to the West Coast port situation (in March, chilled imports from the U.S. recovered to near year-ago levels at 5,775 mt). Chilled imports from Australia (27,725 mt, +8 percent), Mexico (782 mt, +49 percent) and Canada (602 mt, +102 percent) were all higher year-over-year in the first quarter, while imports from New Zealand (1,207 mt, -12 percent) declined.
Japan’s February inventories of frozen imported beef eased from January but were still up 18 percent year-over-year. Domestic beef inventories were down nearly 25 percent even as domestic beef production was nearly even with last year. Japan’s wagyu carcass prices eased slightly in March but were still up 28.5 percent year-over-year in yen (+9 percent in U.S. dollars), averaging $7.87/lb. Dairy steer carcass prices moved higher, up 38 percent year-over-year in yen and 17 percent in U.S. dollars, averaging $4.04/lb.