Japan is a good market for U.S. pork, but that market can be even better. John Anderson, American Farm Bureau Federation deputy chief economist, says the Japanese market may be a mature market, but there is room to grow. “Everyone wants a piece of the Japanese market,” he says. “There is potential growth for larger cuts” of pork.
A part of this evolving market is the change in the Japanese consumer, and what that consumer wants and needs. Gary Marshall, CEO of the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council, says the last 10 to 12 years have seen “women going into the workplace. … convenience has become a big issue, a lot more people are eating out.”
Chris Hodges, CEO of the National Pork Board, agrees that the U.S. pork market to Japan is strong, and “the opportunity is getting bigger every day.” He admits the first half of 2015 saw pork exports to Japan down as the U.S. industry recovered from the West Coast port slowdown, recovery from porcine epidemic diarrhea virus and an onslaught of European pork coming into this Asian market.
According to U.S. Meat Export Federation data, metric tons of U.S. pork exports to Japan were down 7% through July this year when compared with the same period in 2014. The value of those exports was down 17% comparing the same time periods. A total of 31,776 metric tons of U.S. pork was exported to Japan in July, compared with 31,844 mt in July 2014.
“Japanese are into quality,” Hodges says. “That’s where marketing is so important,” and the U.S pork product can meet the needs of the Japanese consumer.
Mike Foley, Nebraska lieutenant governor, says the Japanese consumer is demanding more variety in their meat selection. Japan “wants to do business with us just as bad as we want to do business with them.”
Hodges, Foley, Anderson and Marshall were part of a U.S. Meat Export Federation trade mission of about 20 individuals, and the four participated in a Sept. 11 conference call from the USMEF’s Tokyo office. Check back with NationalHogFarmer.com to hear from other members of this trade mission to Japan.