TOKYO, Dec. 10 — Japan’s pork imports will likely break the record this year, as domestic pork production is slowly recovering following the 2014 outbreaks of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED), data from the finance ministry has shown.
PED is a viral disease that has a high fatality rate for infected piglets.
“The PED outbreak has caused a decrease in the number of birth rate per sow,” the Japan Pork Producers Association (JPPA) said.
Japanese pork imports rose 7% to 763,593 metric tons in the 10 months that ended October 31, 2017, compared to the same period the previous year.
The volume surpassed the pace for the record breaking 2005 period.
“The year 2005 was special,” said a Tokyo-based trader, because Japan increased pork imports after consumers shifted their animal protein consumption from beef due to an outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the U.S. and Canada.
This year, if pork imports continue their strong pace, they will likely exceed the landmark tally of 900,000 tons, for the first time.
Imports from Canada saw the biggest increase. Canadian pork in the same period jumped 19% to 174,277 metric tons. Canadian chilled pork surged 24%.
Traders here said more imports from Canada are possible based on consumer tastes and through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) without the U.S.
On the other hand, Japanese pork production in January-October fell 0.6% to 730,483 tons, compared to the same period a year earlier, according to the Agriculture and Livestock Industries Corp.
Domestic production was 4 percent lower than imports.
The trend of imports exceeding output is likely to accelerate due to the impact of the PED outbreak, but also in anticipation of the influx of cheap pork from trade deals, such as the TPP as well as the Japan-EU trade agreement.
That has prompted the JPPA to call for financial support for the domestic pork industry to help producers construct new facilities as well as to modernize existing facilities.