Minnesota Pork leaders see great potential in Japanese market

Japan represents US pork’s number one value export market

David Mensink, a farmer from Preston, Minn., and Minnesota Pork CEO, David Preisler traveled to Japan in early September to learn more about the world’s most competitive red meat import market and to demonstrate their commitment to serving it. The visit came on the heels of the trade agreement in principle that would bring Japanese tariffs on U.S. beef, pork and other agricultural products in line with tariffs of competitors.David Mensink and David Preisler

The Heartland Team got a first-hand look at their leading export market, learned more about its potential and what this market can mean to the bottom-line of rural America.

“Japan imports half of its calories and that will not change,” says David Mensink. “After seeing the demand for our pork products first-hand, it’s important for us as an industry to capitalize on this opportunity and do what we can to expand our market share in Japan.”

Mensink adds, “As a producer I enjoyed seeing the connection between the importers, retailers and consumers.”

The 30-member Heartland Team, which included beef, pork, corn and soybean farmers along with other agricultural industry leaders, met with key players in the Japanese trade, toured retail and restaurant sectors, explored Japanese domestic production and overall, gained a better understanding of the potential in the market and how USMEF works to develop the Japanese market for U.S. red meat products.

Mensink noted quality and safety are paramount in the Japanese market and team members were able to answer questions and speak directly about the integrity, quality and safety of U.S. pork and beef. The meetings and events with buyers and with consumers enhanced the image of American farmers.

While in Japan, the team received market briefings at the American Embassy from the Foreign Agricultural Service and the Agricultural Trade Office, met with U.S. Packer representatives, the Japan Meat Trader Association and with leading Japanese importers and distributors. The team also toured large retail outlets, witnessed U.S. meat promotions and participated in consumer events.

Retail visits enabled team members to meet with Japanese consumers and learn about their taste preferences. These interactions confirmed for team members that brand-conscious Japanese consumers seek out and trust high-quality, safe products that are often backed by a story.

“Knowing where product comes from and how it is produced is important with Japanese consumers,” says David Preisler. “It is a fascinating and sophisticated market and consumers want assurances about the safety and quality of imported products.”

Already the top value market for U.S. beef and pork, the market holds even more potential if the U.S. can get back on a level playing field. All of U.S. pork and beef’s major competitors gained tariff relief in Japan this year through the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the economic partnership agreement between Japan and the European Union.

Preisler adds, “Export success fuels our rural communities and we cannot afford to be at a disadvantage in the world’s market place.”