Japan’s Pork Imports Lower in 2013; U.S. Fuels Increase in Beef Imports

Japan’s 2013 pork/pork variety meat imports declined 3 percent year-over-year to 958,246 mt. Smaller frozen volumes from the United States and Canada were not fully offset by larger imports of chilled pork and ground seasoned pork, as well as an increase in frozen pork from other suppliers. Japan’s imports from the U.S. included record-large volumes of chilled pork (198,493 mt, +9 percent) and ground seasoned pork (104,883 mt, +12 percent), but this only partially offset the lower frozen volume (82,650 mt, -37 percent).


Japan’s imports of Canadian pork followed similar trends, as the frozen volume (51,649 mt) declined by 50 percent while imports of chilled imports (86,994 mt, +26 percent) and ground seasoned pork (18,013 mt, +19 percent) were higher. Frozen pork imports from the European Union (225,472 mt, +4 percent) and Chile (29,521 mt, +2 percent) were modestly higher, while Mexico (50,975 mt, +38 percent) posted a sharp increase. The growth from Mexico partially reflects its labor advantage, and thus ability to add value to cuts, through slicing and dicing. Chile and Mexico also have a small duty advantage through their Economic Partnership Agreements with Japan, where their imports (within respective quotas and after meeting the gate price) pay 2.2 percent instead of the 4.3 percent paid by the U.S. and other suppliers.


Japan’s November inventories of imported pork were down 15 percent year-over-year, reflecting the challenges in frozen trade. Domestic inventories were 1 percent higher. Domestic pork production for January-November was also up 1 percent.

Japan’s 2013 beef/beef variety meat imports increased 6 percent year-over-year to 599,922 mt, led by significant growth from the United States (216,850 mt, +46 percent). U.S. market share climbed from 26 percent in 2012 to 36 percent last year (it was 51.5 percent in 2003). The U.S. reclaimed market share from Australia, which saw its share drop from 60 percent in 2012 to 52 percent last year. U.S. market shares by segment were:

  • Chilled beef 41 percent
  • Frozen beef 31 percent
  • Variety meats 52 percent


Japan’s imports of frozen U.S. beef (99,758 mt, +65 percent) increased dramatically, driven by a near-doubling of cuts from the plate/brisket category 77,749 mt, +93 percent) and a significant increase in chuck cuts (18,852 mt, +31 percent). Imports of chilled U.S. beef (86,297 mt, +21 percent) included chuck cuts (39,767 mt, +8.5 percent), brisket/plate (37,053 mt, +36.5 percent) and loin cuts (9,353 mt, +22 percent). Imports of U.S. variety meats were also sharply higher (30,794 mt, +88 percent).

Japan’s imports from Australia were down 9 percent to 310,016 mt. Imports of frozen beef from Australia were down 10 percent to 170,273 mt, including a slight increase in trimmings (112,626 mt, +0.6 percent), a slight decline in chuck cuts (33,921 mt, -1 percent) and a sharp decline in brisket and plate (33,921 mt, -38 percent). Imports of chilled beef from Australia were also down 10 percent to 212,305 mt, with decreases in all categories: chuck cuts (69,845 mt, -8 percent); brisket/plate (27,480 mt, -12 percent) and loin (15,603 mt, -14 percent). Variety meat imports from Australia were higher (19,246 mt, +8%).


Compared to 2003, Japan’s total 2013 imports were still down 13 percent – including a 21 percent decline in chilled beef and a sharp decline in variety meat. This reflects the lack of a comparable alternative to U.S. beef, though chilled beef and variety meat supplies received a strong boost from the expansion of market access for U.S. beef that went into effect in February 2013.

Japan’s November inventories of imported beef were up 29 percent year-over-year but lower than the previous three months. Inventories of domestic beef were down 11 percent in November and domestic production for January-November was down 2 percent. The frozen beef safeguard was again avoided in the third quarter of the Japanese fiscal year. USMEF does not expect it to be triggered in the final quarter, which ends March 31.

In January, Japan’s wholesale imported beef prices were higher year-over-year with the biggest increases in U.S. chuck short rib (+40 percent), chuck flap (+36 percent), boneless short rib (+33 percent) and ribeye roll (+32 percent). Prices for frozen U.S. short plate were down 9 percent but have recently trended higher.

Sources: Global Trade Atlas, USMEF-Tokyo and Japan’s Agriculture and Livestock Industries Corporation (ALIC)