Colorado beef, wheat exports to Japan not expected to slow |

Colorado beef, wheat exports to Japan not expected to slow

Bill Jackson
Greeley, Colo.

Exports of beef into Japan from Greeley-based JBS USA have not slowed since the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit the Asian nation a week ago.

Chandler Keys, spokesman for JBS, said he does not expect beef exports to slow, nor does Darrell Hanavan, executive director of Colorado Wheat. Both noted the Japanese population has to eat, and Keys said the worst damage to the country is in its main agricultural area.

“It’s going to take a long time for that to recover,” Keys said, noting that once agriculture fields dry, it will take some time to get the salt out of the ground brought in by tsunami seawater.

Exports to beef since last week’s disaster have not slowed, Keys said.

“The ports we ship into are in the southern part of the country – Osaka and Tokyo – and the devastation is in the northern part. We are still selling beef, and we don’t see any turn down of that,” Keys said. The export of U.S. beef into Asian markets has seen significant increases in the past few months, he said, adding that’s the reason the number of beef animals on feed has increased in the United States.

The area hit by the disaster, he said, is also a major pork-producing region of Japan.

According to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, exports of Colorado agricultural products have increased significantly in the past year or more and topped $508.9 million last year, a 27 percent increase from the previous year. Colorado is the third-largest exporting state for fresh and frozen beef, state agriculture department officials said.

Tim Larsen is the senior international marketing specialist with the state agriculture department. He, too, didn’t expect a fall off of Colorado products, particularly beef.

“First, our beef is cheaper than theirs, and a food safety issue may develop,” he said. Colorado fresh beef sent to Japan increased by more than $3 million from 2009 to 2010, while frozen product went up by 29 percent for the same period, Larsen said.

He said 11 percent of all fresh beef exported to Japan comes from Colorado and 26 percent of frozen meat is state-produced, making Colorado the top U.S. exporter of frozen beef to Japan.

Fresh and frozen products in January of this year was up 33 percent from January 2010, he added.

“But that’s only part of the story. We have a lot of room for expansion,” Larsen noted. Prior to the first case of the so-called mad cow outbreak in the U.S., which came in 2003, the U.S. exports of beef exceeded more than $1 billion annually to Japan.

Hanavan said Japan gets 60 percent of its wheat from the United States, and that country represents 10-15 percent of the total wheat exports from the U.S. That wheat is used in breads, noodles, confectionery and other food items, he said.

During the past five marketing years, he said, Colorado has exported an average of 5.8 million bushels of hard red winter wheat, the state’s main wheat crop, which accounted for 17.7 percent of exports to Japan.

“There may be a temporary disruption,” Hanavan said. But he added that the Japanese government has indicated it has a two-month supply of wheat in storage and that it moved this past week to book exports into Japan through the end of May.

“I don’t think (the disaster) is going to affect us, but we’ll have to wait and see what effect it is going to have on that country’s farmers as they start to rebound,” Hanavan said.

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