Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Understanding the potential of the Japanese market for beef and lamb exports

To fully understand a market, there’s no substitute for immersing yourself in it. This week, guest blogger Jonathan Eckley, from the EBLEX export team, gives an insight into some of the work he’s been doing in the Far East to help UK exporters.

We’re all aware of the potential opportunities for beef and lamb exports in markets in the Far East. While securing access to markets like China and Japan is a long-term ambition for us, there’s no time like the present to try and fully understand what these markets demand and to start establish relationships with key players in the supply chain.

I recently returned from a three-day red meat mission to Japan and one aspect that struck me other than the attention to detail given to everything was the economic statistics underpinning the market potential. While we don’t yet have market access for beef and lamb in Japan, it was something that stood out.

Nearly 23 per cent of household expenditure goes towards food, according to the Japanese Statistics Bureau. Japanese meat consumption is also highly dependent on imported product. Beef consumption in 2014 was 859,000 tonnes, with beef imports at 519,000 tonnes – that’s around 60 per cent of total consumption. Of those beef imports, 58 per cent were frozen, boneless product, with fresh, boneless cuts largely making up the remainder.

The potential opportunities are clear to see and represent significant potential for our exports. As I say, while we do not yet have market access secured, the best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today. The trip formed part of a wider visit to the Far East where we also took part in two major food shows in China and Hong Kong, again showcasing UK product.

In Japan, working with the UK embassy and local UKTI food sector advisors, we organised a complete in-market experience for a group of exporters to help identify the key players in the Japanese red meat supply chain.

It included retailer visits, as well as a visit to a cutting plant which was supplying the food service sector. Our exporters gained a great understanding of the market which is precisely what these missions aim to achieve. We also organised an industry seminar for leading importers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers to highlight what UK production systems have to offer. Not only did the programme provide an ideal initial networking opportunity, but it helped lay the foundations on which any future business can hopefully flourish.

The wider role that exporting has to play in helping the UK economic revival remains high on the agenda. While there remains a lot of work to be done to secure access to these markets, the long-term benefits are, potentially, immense. That’s why it’s imperative for us to continue doing the groundwork now, to understand requirements as fully as possible and put ourselves in the strongest possible position to capitalise in the future.