Pork Contingent Visits Japan and Analyses Market

JAPAN - A contingent from the US pork industry is in Japan this week accompanying USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on a tour promoting US pork and other agricultural exports to the country.
calendar icon 8 April 2010
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“I think we can still grow the Japanese market even though it’s one of our largest markets for US pork,” says Tim Bierman, Larrabee, Iowa, National Pork Board president. The comments were made in a teleconference Wednesday sponsored by the US Meat Export Federation.

“The long-term trend for US pork exports still remains strong, which is a very positive signal to US pork producers,” says Chris Novak, Des Moines, Iowa, National Pork Board chief executive officer. “We’ve gained market share here in Japan against competitors shipping pork from other countries.”

“Our partners here in Japan want to achieve an emotional trust in the food they are consuming,” said Mr Novak. “This is a real-life example of why the Pork Quality Assurance Plus Programme is so important for producers at home.”

The group visited with Japanese retailers, influencers and consumers about US pork, reports Pork Magazine. “They are interested in the same things as US consumers are including safety, quality and consistency,” says Danita Rodibaugh, Rensselaer, Ind., USMEF Vice Chair.

USMEF works on marketing and promotion programmes with retail, food service and Japanese consumers for continued growth in this key market for US pork.

Currently, 20 countries compete for market share in Japan, according to Phil Seng, USMEF president and chief executive officer. The United States provides approximately 17 per cent of all pork consumed in Japan. Loins, ground pork and bellies are dominant items bound for the Japanese market.

In addition, back ribs have seen an upswing in Japan orders. For 2009, USMEF estimates that the United States exported 660,000 pounds of back ribs to Japan. USMEF worked with Japanese cooking instructors and sponsored extensive promotion programmes designed to increase back rib acceptance in Japan.

Differentiating and branding is an important aspect for pork retailing in Japan, according to Seng. ”The trend lends itself to the US industry because we have a tremendous ability to brand our product and differentiate it in many ways.”

The US contingent is observing the 50th anniversary of the US “Hog Lift” to the country in an effort to help Japan recover from natural disasters.

US pork sales to Japan last year were approximately $1.5 billion and sales for 2010 are expected to grow 4 per cent.

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