DENVER – Many observers speculated that US meat exports to Japan would decline significantly in the immediate aftermath of Japan’s earthquake/tsunami disaster. But most of Japan’s population has not been displaced and their long-term demand for US beef and pork should not be adversely affected, said Philip Seng, US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) president and CEO.

Japan‘s region impacted by the tsunami represents a fairly significant portion of that nation’s domestic livestock production, which could result in an increased need for imported meat.

As a result, USMEF is maintaining its original 2011 beef and pork export forecasts to Japan. The beef export forecast calls for 153,000 metric tons valued at $790 million – an increase of 23% over 2010. Regarding US pork, the forecast remains at 447,000 metric tons valued at $1.7 billion – a 3% increase over 2010.

“I’ve had a long association with Japan over the years,” Seng said. “I lived there for 10 years and I’ve been in a lot of earthquakes, but anytime in Japan you have an earthquake of five....that’s considered a pretty significant earthquake. Considering this was a nine, almost double that, it was unbelievable. When we take a look at the region, four major prefectures have been affected. People have to realize it’s only about 2% of the population and about 2% of the GDP, but what they produce is about 16% of the pork, about 12% of the beef and about 15% of the poultry. All of those operations have been severely impacted. So, we see there’s going to be a shortage when you take that much out of production in Japan; there's going to be a need to bring in more meat products. The outlook looks promising as far as exports in our forecasts, possibly even exceeding our forecast for Japan.”

Seng also discussed the disaster relief effort that USMEF is coordinating on behalf of the US meat industry. “USMEF has just announced a relief effort,” he said. “We’re going to have a short term where you can contribute dollars immediately. It’s posted on the web site

“We have some web sites where you can go and dedicate those dollars for immediate relief,” he added. “Longer term, there are going to be a lot of displaced people. So what we’re looking at is a campaign where we want to involve all sectors of USMEF, but we’re going to be working with existing Japanese companies and distribution centers as far as meals and meat products. We see this as more of a long-term, sustained effort throughout the whole summer. It will do some good, but it will also help to move some product and really help the Japanese when they most need it.”

Tyson Foods. has since pledged to contribute to the Japan Earthquake/Pacific Tsunami Fund of the American Red Cross. Tyson will match employee donations, dollar-for-dollar, up to $100,000 for the American Red Cross, which is helping support the medical and relief activities of the Japanese Red Cross. And Cargill has donated $250,000 to Second Harvest Japan, a Tokyo-based food bank that is delivering truckloads of food and other needed items to the Tohoku region.