Japan is expected to increase pork imports
This year, Japan's pig crop and pork production may be lower than expected, according to the latest USDA forecast. Greater pork production and slower rebuilding of the hog population in 2021 lowered sow beginning stocks in 2022, says the report. As a result, Japan's pork imports may increase this year to cover domestic consumption.
Stable household demand for pork pushed 2021 carcass prices above pre-COVID-19 levels in 2019. Despite the market risk caused by the pandemic, hog operators responded to strong prices by expanding hog slaughter and pork production by just over 1% (16,836,873 head and 1,318,125 tons of pork in 2021).
The strong market for pork production persists despite problems with classical swine fever (CSF). Even with the CSF vaccination program, some 100,000 head needed to be culled in 2021. Programs to rebuild the hog population with imported breeding sows have been underway since 2018, but 2021 global freight congestion has delayed implementation, and Japan’s imports of breeding swine in 2021 trended slower than 2020. As a result, the pace of slaughter exceeded the pace of stock rebuilding.
Recovering demand for pork in the foodservice industries plus continued steady retail demand suggests a strong market for pork consumption. High prices for beef may also drive greater demand for pork, which leads USDA to increase projections for Japan’s pork consumption in 2022. Though almost flat in 2021 from 2020, greater in-home cooking pushed pork consumption higher than before the 2019 COVID-19 outbreak, by about 8% for fresh or frozen pork, and 4% for processed products.
Japan’s pork imports are expected to be slightly higher to balance expected lower domestic pork production in 2022. However, growth in demand may exceed supplies owing to global supply chain disruptions. As a result, USDA anticipates that ending stocks of Japanese importers in 2022 will end lower.
Japan’s 2021 imports of chilled pork slightly exceeded 2019 levels, but frozen pork imports declined by a greater volume, making imports in 2021 still lower than 2019. In the end, Japan’s domestic ending stocks in 2021 were drawn lower on strong demand and slower imports. USDA expects that situation will continue for at least the first half of 2022.