U.S. producers eye big increase in beef exports

JIJI

The U.S. Meat Export Federation is gunning for a significant increase in beef exports to Japan by its members this year following the relaxation of import restrictions.

The federation has targeted Japan for 217,000 tons of beef in 2013, a 45 percent increase from the previous year.

Despite the dollar’s recent appreciation against the yen, U.S. ranchers have high hopes. Exports have already been on the rise for six years in a row since Japan resumed U.S. beef imports suspended due to the discovery in 2003 of the first case there of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

Japan eased U.S. beef import restrictions in February, allowing meat from cattle up to 30 months old, compared with the previous age limit of 20 months old.

The deregulation will help ensure stable supplies of various types of U.S. beef. The federation plans to increase exports of high-priced beef products, such as steaks with bones and marbled beef, according to officials.

The amount of U.S. beef available in the Japanese market will increase sixfold, said an official at the federation’s Tokyo office. Other beef cuts, such as tongue and liver, are also expected to be supplied on a stable basis.

According to supermarket firm Daiei Inc., sales of U.S. beef tongue have been growing.

Regardless, domestic products dominate the retail market for high-priced beef, the segment the U.S. side covets.