US Beef Prices Could Limit Japanese Imports

JAPAN & US - The combination of the historically low number of US cattle and soaring grain prices (especially corn) that were caused by the severe 2012 drought in the United States, now appear to be affecting the prospects for Japan’s 2013 beef import outlook, according to the US Foreign Agricultural Service.
calendar icon 11 October 2012
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Surging US beef prices in 2012 may carry into next year, effectively limiting Japan’s prospective imports in 2013 resulting in a stable level of Japan’s overall beef consumption.

Although, Japan’s pork market enjoyed a high level of imports and consumption in the past, this may no longer be the case. Japan’s pork sales, especially in the retail and the food service, have stalled this year due a large (and thereby cost-competitive) surplus poultry meat. Pork sales are now expected to adjust downward slightly in 2013 in response to low market prices and weakening demand and FAS projects weak growth in Japan’s pork market in 2013.

At the same time, it is expected that Japan’s high dependence on imported grains will raise prices of livestock feeds for the forecast year. This sets a rather difficult tone for 2013 for Japanese livestock producers’ market outlook for their already relatively expensive domestic beef, especially for cuts from high-grade Wagyu carcasses.

In early September 2012, Japan’s Food Safety Commission (FSC) concluded its review of the domestic BSE border measures. The FSC advised that the BSE risk for US and Canadian beef imports is negligible to human health even if the age restriction threshold were to be increased to 30 months or younger. The FSC recommendation is now in the public comment period until October 10th. No final date for revision of Japan’s import restrictions for beef has been announced. Japanese import growth scenarios specific to American beef depend on its price outlook in 2013, which is generally expected to be higher than 2012.

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