The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) recently hosted its Heartland Team on a Japanese trade mission to provide an overview and introduction into the Japanese beef and pork markets. The team of 31 producer members from 13 different states is composed of beef, pork, corn and soybean farmers as well as Farm Bureau members and representatives from some state agriculture departments.
The trip was perfect timing for the visit, as President Donald Trump announced Aug. 25 an agreement in principle with Japan to improve access for U.S. red meat in Japan, the largest value destination for U.S. pork and beef exports.
“We’re happy to say the trade here in Japan is very enthusiastic about the prospect of being on a level playing field sooner rather than later,” USMEF president and chief executive officer Dan Halstrom said. “So, I would say the timing of our trip in that regard was perfect.”
Halstrom said conversations with some of the major importers are already underway about how to regain lost market share. Still, he said steps to regain that share vary, depending on the product and channel.
“They all vary a bit, but the key point here is that we have commitments from our major funding sources — both the checkoff as well as some of our government revenue; it’s for this very purpose to be ready when we’re on a level playing field in Japan to regain some of that lost share,” he said.
Specifically, Halstrom said USMEF is most interested in the chilled sector, which “spreads across many sectors.”
He added, “That would probably be the first area we’re focused on.”
Currently, Halstrom said it is premature to speculate on a timeline for when an agreement will be implemented, “but we hope it is sooner rather than later.”
Cevin Jones, an Idaho cattle feeder and USMEF chair-elect, said it was great to see all of the programs the U.S. is doing in Japan to promote beef.
“We’re seeing good results out of all of that,” Jones said, adding that it was beneficial to see how the checkoff dollars have been utilized.
Jones particularly mentioned a barbeque event he and the other Heartland Team members attended. He said consumers in the U.S. take for granted the opportunity to grill with their families in their back yards any given night. In Japan, he said, “it is a completely different story. They don’t have back yards; they don’t have barbeque grills. To get out and have them experience that was fantastic.”
The team also attended a seminar of where they met with buyers to discuss product as well as production practices.
“Business isn’t done country to country; business is done person to person,” said Dave Preisler, Minnesota Pork Board chief executive officer. “Without those sources of contacts, business doesn’t happen. Countries can set the trading rules, but it’s really people that make the deals happen.”
When you look at the investment of checkoff dollars, especially into USMEF, Preisler said “their goal is to grow the entire meat sector. It is to grow the entire consumption of beef, pork and lamb.”
Preisler added, “We know that we can supply the kind of volume and quality that they are demanding. We’re going to do all we can to make sure we’re meeting that demand.”