Beefing up activity: US hopes to drive Japan exports as tourism rebounds and retail opportunities emerge

The sector has been ramping up its activity in the country in recent weeks with a significant presence at both FoodEx Japan, which FoodNavigator- Asia attended, and the Japan Supermarket Trade Show.

Trade body the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) said FoodEx Japan provided a significant opportunity to engage an audience eager for premium beef and pork, as well as cultivate enduring relationships with Japan’s retail giants.

It comes after beef export volume to Japan in 2023 dropped 22% to 243,019mt, while value declined to $1.8bn.

The association said the weak yen, Japan’s high import duties and declining disposable incomes had hurt beef demand, but the recent rebound in tourism is driving some optimism in the foodservice sector.    

“There is no question that 2023 was a challenging year for US beef exports, especially in our largest Asian markets where economic conditions have weighed on foodservice demand,” USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom said.

“Of course, we were also challenged on the supply side, with less product available for export. But nevertheless, U.S. beef achieved excellent growth in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, and we are encouraged by the December uptick in demand in South Korea and China. It was also great to see such strong per-head export value in December, topping $430.”

South Korea is the US’s biggest beef market, but exports fell 16% to 248,562mt.

Export value was down 22% but still reached $2.13 billion, marking the third consecutive year that exports to Korea topped $2 billion.

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