Japan’s Imports Decline Despite Increases for U.S. Beef, Chilled Pork

Japan-Chilled-Pork-Imports-350Japan’s August pork imports were down 9 percent from a year ago to 83,755 mt, but this was still the second-largest monthly total this year. August imports from the United States (35,994 mt) were down 6 percent despite large increases in chilled pork (16,803 mt, +23 percent) and ground seasoned pork (10,055 mt, +21 percent). Frozen imports from the U.S. continued to suffer, however, dropping 29 percent to just 6,403 mt. This was also true of Japan’s total August imports of frozen pork, which fell 19 percent to 38,875 mt. Frozen imports from Canada, the other main supplier of picnics and raw materials for sausages, were down sharply (4,534 mt, -60 percent). Imports from the EU, which are mainly bellies and loins, were also lower (20,271 mt, -4 percent).

Trends for January through August were similar, with total imports down 4 percent to 632,363 mt. Volumes were down from the U.S. (281,932 mt, -7 percent) and Canada (106,018 mt, -17 percent) but larger from the EU (157,139 mt, +5 percent), Mexico (40,732 mt, +23 percent) and Chile (23,750 mt, +15 percent). The U.S. and Canada are shipping larger volumes of chilled pork but this has not fully offset the decline in frozen volumes. Imports from the EU, Mexico and Chile are almost entirely frozen, but they have benefited from shipping higher-value bellies and loins and/or value-added and labor-intensive items, which improves their ability to meet Japan’s gate price.

Japan-Pork-CarcassJapan’s domestic hog carcass prices in August were up 10 percent from last year (in yen terms), averaging $2.44/pound. This increase comes despite a 1 percent increase in production from January through July. Production is expected to continue to run 1 percent to 2 percent above last year through the end of 2013, as farmers have expanded in an effort to increase economies of scale. With the decline in imports, July ending stocks were down 1 percent from last year at 169,125 mt, including a 2.6 percent drop in imported inventories (146,958 mt) offsetting an 8.6 percent increase in domestic (22,167 mt).

Japan’s August beef imports were down 3 percent from a year ago to 60,936 mt, but imports from the U.S. were up 23 percent to 22,989 mt. Frozen imports were also lower (35,538 mt, -2 percent) despite larger imports from U.S. (11,636 mt, +33 percent). Japan’s chilled beef imports were also lower in August (19,081 mt, -9 percent), but imports from the U.S. increased 4 percent to 8,365 mt. (USMEF understands that importers managed frozen volumes in September and again likely avoided triggering the frozen beef safeguard. We will not know for sure, however, until September import data is published near the end of this month.) Japan-Froz-beef-imports

For January through August, total beef imports were up 7 percent to 410,233 mt, driven by a large increase from the U.S. (143,165 mt, +43 percent). Volumes were also higher from Canada (10,139 mt, +46 percent) and Mexico (16,558 mt, +11 percent), while imports from Australia (211,690 mt, -9 percent) and New Zealand (26,805 mt, -3 percent) were lower.

Wagyu-A3-steer-carcass-price Japan’s beef carcass prices remained strong in August, with Wagyu A-3 up 24 percent (to $7.92/pound) and dairy steers up 32 percent (to $3.61/pound). For January through July, beef production was down 2.2 percent, reflecting the impact of FMD and the earthquake-tsunami-radiation crisis of 2011. July ending stocks were up 23.7 percent from a year ago to 122,982 mt, with a large increase in imported beef inventories (109,699 mt, +32.6 percent) more than offsetting a decline in domestic inventories (13,284 mt, -20 percent).

Sources: Global Trade Atlas and the Agriculture and Livestock Industries Corporation of Japan (ALIC)