Japan Still Buying US Pork
By Richard Smith
DTN Japan Correspondent
CHIBA, Japan (DTN) — The porcine epidemic diarrhea virus that is estimated to have killed millions of pigs in the U.S. has not yet affected U.S. pork exports to Japan, pork traders interviewed at the March 4-7 FOODEX international food fair said.
But some voiced fears high prices and insufficient volume availability would negatively influence purchasing behavior here by summer.
Roy Allen, international business development vice-president for Dallas-based Rudolph Foods, which started selling pork rinds here a year ago from its operation in Denmark, said not one complaint had come from any of his company’s customers. "They don’t even talk about it (porcine diarrhea)," Allen said. "It hasn’t had any impact on exports."
Barrington, Ill.-based Rose Packing started selling processed pork to Japan 25 years ago. Executive Vice-President Jim Vanderbergh said from his company’s perspective, the epidemic has not affected exports to Japan. "We can get the prices we ask," Vanderbergh said.
However, Vanderbergh said at 30 cents a pound, he has never seen pork trimming prices so high at this time of the year. "The (porcine diarrhea) epidemic is partly to blame for that. It’s keeping pork off the market," he said.
Daniele, Inc. started exporting small volumes to Japan a year ago. The Pascoag, R.I.-based charcuterie company is facing July-level prices, salesman Davide Dukcevich said. "We’re terrified of what will happen in the summer, because if it’s July prices now, what will happen in July?" Dukcevich said.
"Of course, when you raise the prices, it always affects volumes," he said.
Massillon, Ohio-based Sugardale international business director Avy Konor said his company’s sales to Japan have not been affected by the rising prices, but he can see an impact in the future. Importers know the prices will go up, and it might affect their business, Konor said. "They might switch to another (exporting) country," he said. "We are worried a little bit."
Japan Meat Traders Association Executive Director Tatsuo Iwama said some packers here say although U.S. pig head count is going down, carcass weight is rising, so there won’t be significant impact on volumes, while others say head count is going down and volume reduction will happen. "I don’t really know what’s true," Iwama said.
Seigo Nakatani, who works in sales for Japanese importer Inter Nob, said the epidemic has just occurred, so his company hasn’t really suffered any damage yet, but expects less volume in the summer. On the consumer side, though, Nakatani has seen no problems.
"Consumers don’t really know what’s happening," Nakatani said. "The problem is with meat companies and wholesale."
MEF International Program Vice-President Greg Hanes noted lean hog futures for April are 40% higher than last year. Those higher prices have not started filtering down to the market yet, Hanes said. "But as they do, it could have a negative impact on some of the purchasing behavior here," he said.
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