Japan reinforced its position as a key trading partner for the U.S. pork and beef industries in 2009, clearly outperforming the market and either maintaining or increasing U.S. beef and pork imports.

In calendar year 2009, U.S. pork sales in Japan – our top market for pork export value – nearly matched the all-time value record set one year ago-- $1.54 billion verses $1.545 billion in 2008).
While that fact may not seem astonishing, consider that the global pork industry slumped 15 percent in 2009 versus the year prior, and Japan’s supermarket sales dropped 4.3 percent, reaching a 21-year low. At the same time, Japan’s foodservice sales dropped 1.5 percent – the first decline in the past six years.

U.S. pork has gained traction with Japanese consumers preparing traditional winter dishes such as nabe (hot pot) and stewed pork favorites kakuni and nibuta. Through the end of February, USMEF is conducting major winter retail promotions showcasing U.S. pork loin, belly and CT butt as featured ingredients in these popular dishes. Support for these promotions is provided by the pork checkoff and USDA’s Market Access Program.

In this same environment, sales of U.S. beef in Japan ended the year 23 percent higher than the previous year in both volume and value while the global market for all beef exporters fell 16 percent.

“Because of its strong currency and financial stability, there has been a tendency to think of Japan as an oasis in the global economic downturn,” said Philip Seng, president and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation. “But make no mistake about it, Japan’s retail and food service sectors have faced serious challenges in recent months. One of the keys to growing market share for U.S. beef and pork in this economic environment has been to meet these challenges with products that deliver tremendous versatility and value.”

The United States now holds 46 percent of the imported pork market share in Japan and 72 percent of the chilled pork market. Since reentering the market after BSE, U.S. beef market share is also on the rise.

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Source: USMEF