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Japan Monitors Beef Import Volumes

03 June 2013
Meat & Livestock Australia

JAPAN - Japan’s beef imports for April are forecast to reach 18,800 tonnes for chilled up by 11 per cent year-on-year and 23,100 tonnes up by 14 per cent for frozen beef, according to the Agriculture and Livestock Industries Corporation of Japan.

Meat and Livestock Australia analysts said that May volumes are also expected to remain high, up 23 per cent for frozen, with the Japan Meat Traders Association reinforcing communication with importers for their discretion not to trigger beef import tariff safeguard system by keeping the clearance volume lower than the quarterly trigger level.

In the export market, the below parity Australian dollar, high slaughter numbers and slow demand in the Japanese market reportedly eased Australian beef offer prices to Japan this week.

However Japanese buyers are heavily burdened by the depreciated Japanese yen and low price pressure from end users, resulting in cautious negotiations.

MLA said that Japanese trade media has reported on reduced slaughter numbers for domestic cattle in recent months, with an anticipated decline in beef production volumes towards the Japanese summer (June to September).

Monthly adult cattle slaughter numbers in Japan continued to ease year-on-year since February, impacted by Foot-and-Mouth Disease outbreak in 2010, radioactive contamination issues in 2011, as well as a bankruptcy of a large scale feedlot operation in 2012.

Based on the Japanese traceability data which records age of registered cattle, the number of the Japanese Black Wagyu suited for turn off during June to September this year would be 11.7 per cent less from the same time last year, at 147,644 head according to estimates from the Chikusan Nippo, MLA said.

Dairy steer and F1 cattle numbers would also be lower at 67,932 head (down 6.7 per cent year-on-year) and 61,678 head (down 4.5 per cent), respectively.

Wholesale prices have already reflected reduced availabilities, with A4 quality Wagyu carcase price during April averaging 1,837 yen/kg (12 per cent higher than last year), B3 quality F1 at 1,198 yen/kg (also up 12 per cent), and B2 quality dairy steer at 734 yen/kg (up 44 per cent).

Meanwhile, MLA reports that foodservice sales in Japan during April were largely on par with the same month last year, with customer numbers increasing by 2 per cent thanks to firm demand for the fast food sector.

However, spend per customers was down 4.1 per cent in the category, suggesting harsh price competition across the industry leaders.

The Japanese style fast food (mostly gyudon beef rice bowl) and noodles outlets showed similar trends during the month – increased sales (up 6.6 per cent and 8.5 per cent year-on-year) and customer numbers (up 8. per cent and 11.1 per cent), but reduced spend per customer (down 1.6 per cent and 2.3 per cent), respectively. The western style (hamburgers) operations also lifted customer numbers (up 2.7 per cent), while it failed to grow sales (down 2.4 per cent).

The yakiniku (Japanese/Korean style barbecue) sector continued its strong recovery in April, improving all sales (up 9.4 per cent), customer numbers (up 7.6 per cent), and expenditure (up 1.6 per cent).

TheCattleSite News Desk

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