U.S. Sees 45-Percent Increase in Sales after Country Allows Older Beef. The U.S. beef industry, with major help from the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), has seen the benefits of increased beef exports to Japan, following the Asian country's change in trade restrictions this year.
On February 1, Japan began allowing imports of U.S. cattle less than 30 months of age. This change has been long-awaited as Japan put a 20-month age limit on U.S. beef in place in 2006. Kansas was the first state corn checkoff to fund USMEF efforts to build meat exports. Since the 1970s, the Kansas Corn Commission (KCC) has supported all exports of U.S. beef as the beef industry's success encourages a healthy economy for corn and agriculture in general. American beef is noted in other countries for its taste, which stems from cattle consumption of corn and other grains. "We can export corn as grain or as a value-added product - beef and other meats," Kansas Corn spokesperson Sue Schulte said. "That's why the work of the USMEF is so important to us." Japan is the world's third biggest economy and last year purchased 152,763 metric tons of U.S. beef muscle cuts and variety meat valued at $1.03 billion. This change in Japan's policy on beef imports is expected to contribute to a 45-percent increase in U.S. beef exports to that nation in 2013. The importance of the U.S.-Japanese relationship regarding red meat exports was recently highlighted by U.S. Meat Export Federation President and CEO Philip Seng. "On Feb. 1, Japan rationalized its import restrictions to allow beef imports from U.S. cattle less than 30 months of age," Seng said. "The U.S. beef industry is committed to the Japanese market and looks forward to an even closer partnership." Japan is also the number one value market and second in volume market for U.S. pork, buying 455,776 metric tons valued at nearly $2 billion last year. Seng anticipates the U.S. will see increased pork volumes available in the year ahead and continued exports to Japan, where U.S. pork has been the No. 1 imported pork for eight consecutive years. Last year, beef from Australia accounted for 62-percent of Japan's imports of 514,000 tons, a value of $2.2 billion. USMEF expects U.S. beef sales to Japan to rise to 217,000 tons in 2013, still a long way to go compared to 2003 numbers at 267,000 tons of U.S. beef to Japan.