Japan’s meat imports post record high in the first half of 2020 backed by increase in home consumption

TOKYO, Jul. 31 – Japan’s imports of meat products amounted to 1.04 million tons in the period between January and June this year, a record high since data became available in 1988, according to trade statistics released on July 30.

Shipments increased especially from countries with which Japan signed a major trade agreement.

Low-priced imported meat products are expanding their share in the market for processed meat and ingredients for frozen food, as the new coronavirus outbreak has prompted consumers to increase purchases of meat products to eat at home.

The total shipments of beef, pork and chicken from abroad, excluding prepared meat products, reached 1,040,591 tons in the first half of this year, up 2 percent from the same period last year, when the figure posted the previous record high. Imports of meat products during the period have been increasing for seven years in a row since 2014, rising 20 percent in the past decade.

An item which posted the largest increase in imports was frozen beef, rising 7 percent from a year before to total 172,693 tons. “As in-home consumption increased, we have seen a surge in demand for meat processed for frozen food products and meal kits,” said an official of a major meat product manufacturer.

In terms of nations, imports of both beef and pork from the United States increased significantly, following the Japan-U.S. trade agreement which took effect in January. “Reduced tariffs had a great impact. Reflecting the growth of low-end consumers, we are receiving more orders from supermarkets for low-priced U.S. products such as boneless rib of beef,” said an official of a major meat importer.

As for pork, shipments from Mexico rose 14 percent from a year before to 54,615 tons, on the strength of its pork cuts backed by an increase in sales of pork used in bento box lunches and prepared food.

According to grocery store sales statistics released by three organizations of grocery stores, the sales of livestock products in the January-June period rose 10 percent from the same period last year.

“There are moves by grocery stores to plan bargain sales of imported pork in August and after,” an official of a major importer said.

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