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Japanese pig meat imports decline

16 February 2021, at 12:00am

Imports of pig meat (and offal) into Japan fell by 6% to 1.14 million tonnes in 2020. This was largely driven by decreased volumes imported from the EU, most notably Denmark.

Shipments from EU member states fell by a quarter to 295,000 tonnes. There was also a decline in shipments from neighbouring China (-37% to 17,200 tonnes). However, the overall decline was mitigated somewhat by increased volumes imported from the US, up by 9% to 409,000 tonnes. The EU primarily supplies frozen products, which are particularly utilised by foodservice outlets. Like much of the world, demand through this channel has fallen in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The annual decline in imports was biased towards the second half of the year. Figures from Agriculture and Livestock Industries Corporation (ALIC) indicate the volume of pork in storage increased sharply in the second quarter of 2020, probably due to disruption in normal sales outlets because of the coronavirus pandemic. High product availability likely then dampened import demand in the second half of the year.

Stock levels have since declined, and the USDA expects import levels this year to increase a little compared to 2020. Consumption last year is not thought to have fallen very significantly overall. Pork is a staple of home cooking and growth in this area largely compensates for lost foodservice demand. Further downward pressure on import volumes is, therefore, not expected. Increased availability of globally traded pork, reflecting lower demand from the Chinese market, may also encourage importing if prices are more favourable.

Interestingly, Japan recently agreed to allow imports of Hungarian pork from areas of the country not affected by African Swine Fever. This reportedly follows two years of negotiations. This is the first time Japan has reached a regionalisation agreement with an ASF-affected country. It remains to be seen if others can follow suit, and how long such developments might take.