American producers touring Japan this week say enthusiasm is building for U.S. beef, pork and lamb products and the prospect of trade agreement that would result in a “level playing field.”
President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced they had agreed in principle on a trade agreement less than two weeks ago, but once implemented could provide a significant boost to U.S. beef and pork exports.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm with the trade, with customers in Japan,” says Dan Halstrom, U.S. Meat Export Federation president and CEO. “We are operating at a disadvantage at the moment, with a 12% duty disadvantage for the U.S. versus some of our key competitors like Australia, Canada and Mexico.”
Halstrom spoke to reporters via a conference call from Tokyo on Thursday, along with other members of a USMEF-led Heartland team touring Japan this week to see funding dollars at work.
Dean Meyer, Iowa Corn Growers Association director and USMEF Executive Committee member, said he is pleased to see the excitement in Japan for U.S. beef and pork because that helps build a market for U.S. corn.
“Corn growers are committed to partnering with our livestock brands to export red meat,” Meyer said. “One thing that has impressed me is being able to go into the retail (stores) and they had specific pork promotions where they partnered with corn and soybean checkoff dollars to promote, not grain-fed, but U.S. corn and soybean-fed, and I believe that they’re going to promote beef in the same way.”
Dave Preisler, Minnesota Pork Board CEO, told reporters he has been impressed by the contacts USMEF has already established in Japan.
“Business isn’t done country to country; business is done person to person and from business to business, and without those sorts of contacts, business doesn’t happen,” Preisler said. “Countries can set the trading rules, but it’s really people that actually make the deals happen, and I think that when you look at investment in checkoff dollars, especially in the U.S. Meat Export Federation, their goal is to grow the entire meat sector, not just to grow one specific packer’s brand. It is to grow the entire consumption of beef, pork and lamb and that’s why we really appreciate their work.”
Kevin Jones, a cattle feeder from Idaho, said the group’s tour provided an opportunity to see the programs that are promoting beef in Japan.
“It’s great to see how our checkoff dollars are being utilize,” Jones said. “We had 325 people (attending an event) tonight, and they were buyers that really move the needle for us in terms of beef exports to Japan.”
Preisler said that over half the calories in Japan are imported, “and that’s not going to change. They’ve got a tremendous demand for (beef and pork), plus we know that we can supply the volume and quality they are demanding.”
He said sales of U.S. beef and pork in Japan helps put dollars back into rural communities in the Midwest.
U.S. pork depends highly on exports, shipping more than 25% of total production to foreign markets. Dr. Dermot Hayes, an economist at Iowa State University, estimates exports to Japan will grow from $1.6 billion in 2018 to more than $2.2 billion over the next 15 years as a result of the U.S. pork industry gaining market access in Japan as favorable as its competitors, a National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) release said.