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USDA GAIN: Livestock and Products

21 August 2014

USDA GAIN: Japan Livestock and Products Annual 2014USDA GAIN: Japan Livestock and Products Annual 2014

Post projects that higher beef prices through 2015 could limit total Japanese beef consumption (imported and domestic) and rebalance meat consumption towards lower-priced beef cuts and more pork / poultry. Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDV) continued to constrain Japanese and North American pork production in the first half of 2014, leading Japanese pork processors to accelerate supply diversification, to hedge against further price increases, and to nearly trigger the special safeguard (SSG) as they rushed to secure needed supplies. As Japanese and North American production begins to recover from the worst effects of PEDV, Russia’s import ban on EU pork may reinforce patterns that emerged as a result of PEDV as EU producers seek buyers for their additional exportable supply through summer 2015.

USDA GAIN: Livestock and Products


Animal Numbers, Cattle
Animal Numbers, Swine
Meat, Beef and Veal
Meat, Swine


2014 Situation Summary and Outlook

  • High Beef Prices, Tight U.S. Supply, and Buying Competition Hinder Japan’s Prospective 2014 Market Growth

Continued high beef prices in the United States and Australia and lower domestic beef output in 2014 are the main factors preventing Japan’s beef market from realizing potential growth, slowing both imports and consumption.

With fewer beef calves (Wagyu, F-1 Cross Breed and Dairy Steer) expected to reach finishing ages this year, Post projects Japan’s 2014 total domestic beef output will fall by three percent to around 495,000 MT, or slaughter of approximately 1.157 million head. Also, the moderate growth in total imports in 2014 forecast in Post’s last semiannual report is being undercut by reduced beef consumption in response to prevailing high beef market prices and the April 2014 consumption tax hike. Japan’s 2014 total beef imports are therefore now projected down slightly from 2013 to 749,000 MT (beef cuts down two percent to 735,000 MT, prepared products up 14 percent to 14,000 MT). The moderate growth scenario previously projected for total beef consumption in the last semiannual is equally unlikely. Japan’s 2014 total beef consumption is now projected to remain around the same level as the previous year at around 1.234 million MT, with sluggish retail demand being roughly offset by solid food service demand.

In the first half of 2014, Japanese household beef purchase volumes declined by seven percent to 3,229 grams compared to the same period in 2013. While year-on-year household consumption had already fallen by five percent in the first quarter of 2014 (Jan. – March), the April 1 consumption tax hike and steadily rising beef prices appear to have exacerbated the problem, driving household consumption eight percent lower in the second quarter (April - June). However, even at lower volumes, first quarter spending on beef was up three percent year-on-year to 9,668 yen, and up five percent in the second quarter. (See Table 1).

Despite the continued decline of Japanese beef production, reports indicate that relatively weak retail and high-end food service demand for Japanese beef has been suppressing wholesale price increases for relatively high-priced Wagyu and F-1 cross breed beef, but driving wholesale market prices for relatively low-priced dairy steer beef higher.

As the Less than 30 month Quality System Assessment Program (LT 30 QSA) for U.S. and Canadian beef, which started February 1st, 2013, enters its second year of implementation, substitution of U.S. beef for Australian beef seems to be continuing, albeit at a more moderate rate compared to 2013. Following persistent drought across swaths of the United States, a historically low U.S. cattle inventory continues to limit supplies for the U.S. and international beef markets in 2014.

In the first half of 2014, Japan’s total imports of beef cuts were moderately lower from the previous year at 331,787 MT, with the United States up 14 percent at 120,383 MT (chilled cuts down three percent, frozen cuts up 36 percent) and Australia down five percent at 180,775 MT (chilled cuts down two percent, frozen cuts down five percent). (See Table 6-A, 6-B and 6-C).

Food service operations’ continued strong demand for lower-priced cuts, such as short plate, fueled a spike in imports of U.S. frozen cuts in the first half of 2014. That scenario may have been exacerbated by advanced purchases of needed supplies of these frozen cuts in an effort to hedge against even tighter U.S. beef supplies and higher U.S. offers forecast towards the end of 2014 and beyond. As these buyers (beef bowl and barbecue chains as well as convenience stores and lunch box producers) were hurrying to secure frozen cuts, purchases of U.S. chilled cuts fell moderately (down three percent) in the same period due to lethargic retail demand for high-value beef. As the mix of imported U.S. chilled beef shifted towards less expensive cuts, competitively priced Australian grain-fed chilled cuts expanded in both the retail and food service sectors.

As high U.S. offers dampen Japan’s import demand for U.S. beef, Japan will not likely maintain the same import pace seen in the first half of 2014. Additional competition for global exportable supplies from countries with growing beef consumption (such as Hong Kong, Mexico and other Asian countries for U.S. beef; China, Korea, Indonesia, Middle East, the EU and also the United States for Australian beef) also supports Post’s reduced 2014 import projections. The United States is increasingly competing with Japan as it substantially increased imports of Australian grass-fed frozen trimmings (mostly for fast food hamburger patties) in the first half of 2014. As continued drought in certain areas of Australia maintains upward pressure on the number of cattle slaughtered, Australian exports are expected to remain high in 2014.

Taking the above factors into account, the U.S. share of Japan’s total imports of beef cuts in 2014 is projected to increase by two percentage points to 37 percent at 273,000 MT, while Australia’s share is forecast to fall three percentage points to 51 percent at 378,000 MT from the 2013 levels.

As Japan’s frozen beef imports in the first quarter of Japanese Fiscal Year (JFY) 2014 (April – June) were four percent below the same quarter of the previous year and 18 percent lower against the first quarter trigger level of 90,366 MT (on customs clearance basis), concerns for triggering the Special Safeguard (SSG) for frozen beef were moot. Under Post’s 2014 beef import projections, it is unlikely that quarterly frozen import levels will reach the quarterly trigger levels set for the rest of JFY 2014. Chilled beef import levels in the first quarter of JFY 2014 also continued to be far below the trigger level of 74,339 MT. Given the relatively weak retail market outlook, Post does not anticipate imports triggering the chilled beef SSG in JFY 2014. (See Table 2-A and 2-B).

2015 Market Outlook

Post expects Japan’s 2015 beef market outlook to be influenced by the same factors driving production levels and trade flows in 2014. Similar to 2014, Japan’s total domestic beef output is projected to fall moderately, down two – three percent to around 482,000 MT. As fewer beef cattle were born in 2012/2013, Post projects lower slaughter numbers (approximately 1.132 million head) in 2015. (See Note 1).

Note 1: Average finishing ages of Japanese beef cattle are roughly 30 months for Wagyu, 24 - 26 months for F-1 cross breeds, and 24-26 months for dairy steer (typically Holstein) with considerably longer grain feeding periods than U.S. or Australian beef cattle (grain feeding starts at approximately 7 – 9 months of age for all breeds).

Continued contractions in Japan’s dairy and beef cattle herd point to the gradual reduction in total Japanese beef production carrying into 2015 and beyond.

The 2015 Japanese beef supply outlook projected above should provide ample opportunities for imported beef, especially for U.S. beef, to fill potential demand for medium-grade grain-fed cuts, which are popular among consumers. However, the prospect of a further consumption tax increase in October 2015 and persistent high U.S. beef prices are expected to restrain Japan’s imports of U.S. beef in 2015. Meat and Livestock Australia predicts that, despite implementation of the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in 2015, Japanese imports of Australian beef will to fall, as Australian cattle slaughter falls approximately 10 percent, reducing exportable supply. Japan will likely continue to compete with China, the EU, and the United States for exportable supplies of frozen trimmings in 2015.

In light of the above, Post projects that Japan’s 2015 total domestic beef production will fall for the third year in row, declining three percent to around 482,000 MT, or slaughter of 1.132 million head. Post forecasts 2015 total beef imports to remain roughly unchanged from the 2014 level at 749,000 MT (beef cuts down two percent to 735,000 MT, prepared products unchanged at 14,000 MT) and total beef consumption marginally higher at 1.239 million MT, as the industry pares down relatively high beginning stocks (estimated at 180,000 MT).

Given the tight supply outlook for Australian beef in 2015, it is uncertain when and how the implementation of Japan’s EPA with Australia (signed in August 2014) will factor into Japan’s 2015 beef market outlook. Under the EPA, though Japan will maintain a separate special safeguard mechanism on Australian beef imports, Japan is scheduled to gradually reduce duties on Australian beef from the current 38.5 percent level (frozen beef to reach 19.5 percent by the 18th year, chilled beef to reach 23.5 percent by the 15th year. (See Note 2).

Note 2: Upon implementation of the EPA, Japan’s imports of Australian beef will no longer factor into the current SSG governing U.S. imports. The impact on GOJ calculations of the SSG for U.S. and other, non-Australian beef imports remains unclear at this time.


2014 Situation Summary and Outlook

  • Lower Domestic Pork Output and Lower Stocks Raise Total Imports in 2014

Persistence of major outbreaks of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDV) in Japan and in North America (the United States, Canada, Mexico) through 2013 – 2014 have changed Japan’s 2014 pork supply outlook, affecting both total Japanese output and total import volumes.

According to monthly PEDV reports from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), Japan’s PEDV outbreaks appear to have peaked in April – May 2014, with significantly fewer cases reported thereafter and only a handful of cases reported in August 2014. (See Note 3). With a moderately lower sow inventory at the beginning of 2014 and slightly lower pig crops projected in 2014, Japan’s 2014 total hog slaughter would have fallen only slightly from the 2013 level, as reflected in Post’s last semiannual projection. However, extrapolating PEDV-related piglet losses in the first six months of 2014 over an annual basis and incorporating MAFF’s preliminary hog slaughter estimate, Post projects Japan’s 2014 total pork output will decline by three percent from 2013 to 1.273 million MT or slaughter of around 16.47 million head.

Note 3: As of August 10, 2014, a total of 815 cases were reported in 38 prefectures, with 1.211 million head contracting the virus and 360,000 head (mostly piglets) dying. Domestic pork slaughter and pork output in the first half of 2014 fell two percent from the same period last year to 635,600 MT reflecting a moderately low sow inventory at the beginning of the year and PEDV outbreaks starting in October 2013. (See Table 8).

On the international front, PEDV outbreaks in North America are said to have been the most serious in the United States. (See Note 4). As a result, U.S. total 2014 hog slaughter has been significantly lower than the previous years, making the country’s pork supply fairly tight and prices significantly higher for both domestic and international markets. Since Russia banned imports of EU pork in January 2014 due to reported cases of African Swine Fever (ASF) in Lithuania and Poland, EU pork producers had increased exportable supply to send to Asian countries. Coupled with tighter supplies in North America, import results reveal a temporary shift in Japan’s import demand for frozen pork cuts from North American to EU sources in the first half of 2014. (See Note 5).

In the first half of 2014, Japan’s total imports of pork cuts were 10 percent higher from 2013 at 516,731 MT (total chilled cuts up 11 percent at 199,479 MT, with the United States up three percent at 128,632 MT and Canada up 29 percent at 63,632 MT; total frozen cuts up 10 percent at 317,252 MT with the United States down 16 percent at 4,9673 MT, Canada down 17 percent at 30,941 MT, Mexico up 20 percent at 34,446 MT, Denmark up 19 percent at 85,207 MT and other EU countries registering impressive gains – Spain up 70 percent, Netherlands up 86 percent, Germany up 134 percent, Italy up 201 percent). (See Table 7-A, 7-B and 7-C). In the same period, despite high import prices, Japan’s imports of prepared pork products were up 13 percent from 2013 to 145,258 MT (the United States up 19 percent at 98,228 MT, Canada up 29 percent at 14,812 MT with the products mostly being seasoned ground pork, and China down five percent at 15,239 MT with the products being non-seasoned ground pork).

Note 4: As of the week of July 20, 2014, the United States had reported a total of 7,813 cases of PEDV across 30 states, while Canada had reported a total of 70 cases across four provinces. New PEDV cases continue to be reported in both the United States and Canada (MAFF PEDV data site).

Note 5: Japan imposed its ASF import ban on Poland in February 2014. Poland is one of a few countries exporting portion-controlled cuts to Japan. Following the ban, Japan’s imports from Poland plunged, down 60 percent compared to the same period of the previous year. Mexico and Spain are reportedly capturing a portion of Poland’s former export volumes.

Reduced household pork purchases in the first half of 2014 is an indication that the developments described above resulted in slower Japanese pork retail sales, especially following the April consumption tax hike.

In the first half of 2014, Japanese year-on-year household pork purchase volumes were basically unchanged at 9,689 grams, as a four percent increase in the first quarter (Jan. – Mar.) was erased by a five percent decline in the second quarter (April - June) after the start of the consumption tax hike. First half spending on pork was up nine percent year-on-year to 13,341 yen, with first and second quarter spending up ten and nine percent respectively over 2013 levels. (See Table 1).

Despite high prices, U.S. and, especially, Canadian chilled cuts (still priced lower than Japanese pork) appear to have filled retail supply gaps for fresh/chilled cuts caused by reduced Japanese pork output. Post expects this prevailing retail market situation will continue at least through the second half of 2014, with greater penetration of imported chilled cuts amid even lower domestic pork output forecast over that period.

According to meat industry sources, relatively low frozen stocks at the beginning of 2014 (estimated down nine percent at 195,000 MT), a tight pork supply outlook in the United States due to PEDV, and continued high U.S. price offers caused a temporary import surge of frozen EU-origin pork during the first half of 2014. Japanese meat buyers/processors turned to EU suppliers in a rush to secure their needed raw material stocks. However, their hasty, speculative moves nearly triggered the pork SSG for the first quarter of JFY 2014 (April – June). As import volumes approached the SSG trigger level of 208,554 MT (Customs Clearance Basis), Japanese importers were forced to delay customs clearance of some frozen pork shipments until after June 30 to avoid triggering the SSG. Actual imports of 191,577 MT reveal that importers narrowly averted triggering the SSG, which would have raised the tariff under the gate price system; the gate price would have climbed from 524 yen/kg to 653 yen/kg at a 4.7 percent specific duty for pork cuts. (See Table 8-B). According to trade sources, pork imports in the second quarter of JFY 2014 are likely to again approach the trigger level of 415,104 MT as the backlog of shipments cleared customs in early July and buyers/processors continue to secure stocks.

It is difficult to pinpoint the trade outlook for the second half of 2014, but some trade sources predict that Japan’s imports of frozen cuts from the EU will continue to be high, though monthly import volumes will likely taper off as sufficient frozen stocks begin to accumulate. Also, Japanese ham and sausage manufacturers are reportedly keen to import raw material frozen cuts for the second half, particularly picnic cuts from the United States, which is the only viable supplier of bulk volumes. Industry sources indicate that at the current, unprecedented pork import prices, processing picnic cuts (imported in mixed-cut shipments under the gate price system) into sausages and other ground pork products here in Japan may be more profitable than importing expensive seasoned ground pork, which is subject to a 20 percent ad valorem duty. If this scenario plays out, Japan’s imports of U.S. seasoned ground pork may moderate, permitting increased imports of frozen picnics and shoulders.

In light of the above analysis, Post projects that Japan’s total 2014 pork imports will be higher than the last semiannual forecast, up eight percent from 2013 to 1.317 million MT (pork cuts up eight percent to 1.037 million MT (including a small volume of half/quarter carcasses), Prepared Products up seven percent to 280,000 MT).

Japan’s 2014 total pork consumption is projected to remain at roughly the same level as the previous year at around 2.275 million MT as the market struggles with sluggish retail and food service demand, while increased frozen imports, mainly for processing, will likely drive year ending stocks higher.

2015 Market Outlook

Japan’s 2015 domestic pork production outlook appears to hinge on the lasting impacts of PEDV (which seems likely to be controlled in the second half of 2014) and the recovery of sow stocks. The North American PEDV situation is likely to drive the import outlook in 2015, particularly through the impact of PEDV on U.S. hog slaughter and on the pace of pork output recovery. The effects of the U.S. beef supply and demand outlook and its effects on U.S. pork consumption as well as U.S. export offer prices will also factor into Japan’s 2015 pork import outlook. Another factor to watch closely is how Russia’s August 2014 announcement of one-year import bans on certain food imports from Western countries in retaliation for Ukraine-related economic sanctions will shape EU pork export flows. Russia’s decision to include pork from all major EU exporting nations may extend the recent EU pork export surge to Japan and other Asian markets.

Post predicts that Japan’s domestic pork output will recover in 2015, on a limited scale, stimulated by high market prices for domestic pork. Output is projected up by 0.5 percent to 1.279 million MT or total slaughter of around 16.55 million head, after taking into account the declining trend of the national hog inventory and persistent effects of PEDV on 2015 hog slaughter.

With relatively large carry over frozen stocks projected for the beginning of 2015 (estimated up 17 percent at 229,000 MT), Post projects Japan’s total pork imports to be lower than the 2014 level, down a modest three percent to 1.276 million MT (pork cuts down to one million MT on lower imports from major suppliers and market shares as follows: the United States at 36 percent, Denmark at 16 percent, Canada at 14 percent, Mexico at 8 percent, and others (mostly EU and Chile) at 21 percent).

August 2014

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