USMEF hopeful for trade agreement

Cevin Jones, an Idaho cattleman and chairman elect of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, checks out an ad along a Tokyo, Japan, street for a dish prepared with pork. Jones was part of a USMEF delegation that visited Japan to promote U.S. meat exports.

TOKYO — A delegation from the U.S. Meat Export Federation recently traveled to Japan to promote U.S. meat interests and talk to Japanese importers and meat industry officials about building market share and interest for U.S. grain-fed beef and pork.

Dan Halstrom, USMEF president and CEO, discussed what the U.S. delegation was seeing and hearing about U.S. beef and pork in Japan during a conference call.

Do you have any additional information on Japan importing more U.S. corn, as was mentioned by President Donald Trump during his press conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe?

“I think we heard the same information. I don’t think we heard anything specific on corn, but we are hopeful because we are hearing the same reports in the press that there could be a deal done on corn, but I don’t think we’ve heard anything specific in the few days that we’ve been here.”

Are you hearing what a timeline would look like before you get a final agreement and the duties on U.S. beef and pork actually come down?

“I think it’s probably premature to speculate on what the timeline is. Of course, we hope it’s sooner rather than later, and I think that’s the hope of everyone over here. The planning that we are doing all has the same question mark. We are not sure exactly when we will be able to implement it, but we are hoping it is sooner rather than later.”

What do the steps to regain lost market share look like?

“I think the key point here is we have commitments from our major funding sources, both checkoffs, as well as some of our government revenue, for this very purpose — to be ready, when we are on a level playing field in Japan, to regain some of that lost share.

“Specifically, the sector we are most interested in is the chilled segment, the table meat market that goes out chilled, which spreads across many sectors, but I would say the national retail sector and the regional retail sector are the two sectors that the chilled table meat product would go most into, on both beef and pork. That would probably be the first areas we are focused on.”

Do you think this agreement will be a springboard to other agreements?

“We hope it could be a springboard for other agreements. Quite frankly, we are focused on just getting the Japan agreement first.”

What is your outlook for beef exports for 2020?

“As far as the outlook for 2020, I think we are very positive in terms of increased growth, on both beef and pork. Our assumption is that sometime in 2020, this agreement will be in place and we will be reaping the benefits.

“In general, the U.S. is very well positioned from a supply standpoint. We have record production of beef and pork, very well positioned to supply some of these shortfalls and increase protein demand around the world, not only in Japan. So, we are feeling pretty positive about 2020 given the current state of the demand situation.”

What kind of dollar figure can you assign to this and what does the Japan deal mean to U.S. cattlemen?

“We’ve seen our exports go a little bit slack, I would say, in terms of performance this year compared to the prior year, which was a record. We are hearing that back from buyers right now is that the 12% price differential in tariff is having an impact.

“Japan has always been price sensitive, 95% of their trade comes from what we would term value cuts, or what we would term underutilized cuts. So, they are price sensitive. I think if we get that differential corrected and we are on a level playing field, I think that puts us in very good shape for next year.”

Jeannine Otto can be reached at 815-223-2558, ext. 211, or jotto@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Otto.

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