US beef supplies are clawing back market share in Japan,
even without the completion of the Trans-Pacific Trade Patnership, government
"Tight supplies of Japanese and Australian beef should
continue to create opportunities for US beef in the Japanese market," the US
Department of Agriculture's Tokyo bureau said.
The bureau raised its forecast for Japanese beef imports by
15,000 tonnes, to 745,000 tonnes.
This level of imports has only been exceeded once, back in
Winning back lost
US beef has been losing market share in Japan, the world's
third-ranked beef importer, since 2003, when restrictions were bought in
following the detection of BSE.
These restrictions have eased since 2013, but since 2015
there has been stiffening competition thanks to a Japanese trade deal with
Australia, which gave supplies from that country a significant tariff advantage
over those from the US.
And US beef exporters were dealt a blow this year when the
US president officially withdrew from the Trans-Pacific trade partnership,
dashing their hopes for a level playing field with Australian producers.
But with Japanese import demand at near-record levels, ample
US supplies are winning market share.
The higher imports are the result of a prolonged slump in
Japanese beef production.
Japanese beef production is seen easing in 2017 to 460,000
tonnes, thanks to lower slaughter.
Aside from one year in 2001, this would be the lowest level
of production since 1980.
The Japanese beef industry is still dealing with a shortage
of cattle, thanks to a lower calf crop back in 2014 and 2015, which has reduced
The bureau forecast total beef consumption flat
year-on-year, at 1.25m tonnes.
long term prospects
The US is seen as the big beneficiary of increased Japanese imports,
thanks to ample demand, with exports from the main competitor Australian
restricted due to herd-rebuilding there.
The total US market share is seen climbing to 42%, up four
points, while Australian market share falls three points to 51%.
Last week Steiner Consulting noticed the strength of US
exports to Japan, as well as South Korea.
"Shipments to Japan in the last four weeks have averaged
1174 tonnes (33%) more than a year ago while shipments to South Korea have
averaged 499 tonnes (22%) more than last year," Steiner Consulting said.
The bureau also noted "additional tailwinds," for US beef
prospects in Japan, thanks to the launch of a number of US brands.
"With marketing strategies appealing to the story behind the
product and exacting product specifications, which can include grade, breed, finishing
weight, and even specific feeder calf suppliers, Japanese meat importers have
made a significant investment in expanding future US beef import volumes," the
"If these brands succeed, Japanese retailers and food
service outlets could generate additional demand for high-value US chilled cuts
in 2017 and beyond.