Japanese pork imports pick up in Q2
Japan is a key market for high value pig meat products; it has the highest value pork import market across the globe, worth 491 billion Japanese Yen in 2017.
Shipments had moderated at the start of 2018, however Japanese pork imports have returned to modest growth in the second quarter of the year. At 237,300 tonnes, import volumes were 2% higher year-on-year during Q2, in contrast to a 2% fall in Q1. This means volumes for January-June overall were on par with 2017. Import prices have been stable, so value changes reflected volumes shipped, and totalled 241 billion Yen for the period overall.
Spain has further cemented itself as a key supplier to the Japanese market this year. Market share across January-June increased to 13%. This reflects a 10% increase in shipments, which totalled 58,000 tonnes across the period.
Nonetheless, the US remained the largest single-country supplier, with shipments at 129,100 tonnes (68 billion Yen) in the first half of the year. However, this is 4% below year earlier levels, with a declining trend recorded throughout the first half of the year. The situation for US suppliers to Japan looks unlikely to improve, as preferential market access is in the process of being implemented to key competitors. Lower tariffs on Canadian pork are anticipated when the CPTPP (the trade deal that emerged from the TPP after the US withdrew earlier this year) is ratified. Equally, tariffs on EU products will be phased out under the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, negotiations for which were finalised last year. The US did send a trade mission to Japan last month, but the outcome of this remains to be seen.
Japanese pork production was 1% higher than year earlier levels across January-May, at 542,000 tonnes. The higher domestic production may have deterred the need for import growth early in the year. Up to April, domestic wholesale prices were also lower this year, suggesting the market had been well supplied in relation to demand. However, prices subsequently rose sharply, perhaps indicating demand was outstripping supply, boosting the potential for international suppliers. It remains to be seen if this situation continues, supporting imports in the coming months.
Bethan Wilkins, Analyst
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