Japan’s self-sufficiency of pork marks record low of 48.6 percent in fiscal 2019 amid rise of imports

TOKYO, May 23 – Japan’s weight-based self-sufficiency ratio of pork in fiscal 2019 posted a record low of 48.6 percent, according to calculations by The Japan Agricultural News.

While domestic production increased slightly in terms of volume, record high volume of imports led to a drop in the self-sufficiency ratio.

The ratio for beef was 34.6 percent, second lowest following fiscal 2000.

As uncertainties over meat trading continue amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of improving the self-sufficiency ratio is increasing in order to build a stable supply system unaffected by the global situation.

Calculations on the ratios were made by The Japan Agricultural News based on data on the amount of imports and production compiled by Agriculture & Livestock Industries Corporation. The data showed that domestic production of pork in fiscal 2019 rose 0.6 percent from a year before to 902,908 tons, while imports increased 4 percent to total 953,112 tons. The imports marked a record high amount since 1996 when data became available.

The rise in imports is attributable to growing domestic demand for meat and reduced tariffs brought about by the enforcement of major trade agreements. “Many Japanese importers increased purchases, believing that prices would rise as China had been largely increasing its imports following the African swine fever outbreak,” said an official of a major importing firm.

By country, countries taking part in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement took advantage of reduced tariffs to increase their imports, with imports from Mexico, whose strength is in pork cuts, marking a 16 percent year-on-year rise.

Competition among major exporting countries is intensifying as well, with imports from Canada exceeding those from the United States for the first time in April 2019.

The rise in imports is having a negative impact on domestic prices. As importers increased purchases, stocks have been at levels 20 or 30 percent above the previous year since July. Sluggish sales were seen for domestic products, mainly items of lower grades used for processing which compete with imported products.

The annual weighted average price of ungraded pork carcasses at Tokyo Meat Market was 357 yen per kilogram, down 4 percent from a year before. “Stocks of imports were a factor in pushing down prices,” said an official of the market.

Beef imports marked the highest volume in the past decade, reaching some 620,000 tons in fiscal 2019. The self-sufficiency ratio was the lowest after 33.1 percent marked in fiscal 2000 when imports soared following large tariff cuts.

The imports increased in fiscal 2019, as the tariff rate for American beef dropped from 38.5 percent to 26.6 percent in January this year and that of beef from the member nations of the TPP deal which took effect in December 2018 dropped to 26.6 percent for both chilled and frozen products.

While imports are expanding for both pork and beef, uncertainties are seen for future imports amid the COVID-19 outbreak. As meat processing firms in the United States are reducing production, some of them are prioritizing supplies to domestic dealers.

The new Basic Plan for Food, Agriculture and Rural Areas approved in March forecasts that the annual per capita consumption of pork in fiscal 2030 will be about the same as fiscal 2018, and that of beef will grow only 6 percent.

Meanwhile, the plan sets a target of increasing domestic production calculated in terms of cut meats in fiscal 2030 to 920,000 tons for pork, up 2 percent from fiscal 2018, and to 400,000 tons for beef, up 21 percent, in an effort to expand the market share of domestically-produced meat.

Many domestic producers are calling for the need to take the opportunity of the current COVID-19 outbreak to renew the awareness over the importance of improving self-sufficiency ratios. Support measures are necessary to strengthen domestic producers who are burdened by disease prevention measures and competition with imports.

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