DENVER – Phil Seng, U.S. Meat Export Federation president and chief executive officer, recently returned from Japan where he attended FoodEx, Asia’s largest food industry trade show. He offers some interesting observations about this critical market for U.S. beef and pork.

FoodEx is the largest trade show in Asia, Mr. Seng said. There were more than 100,000 people who attended that show. It’s a very important show for the U.S. as far as the revealing products aiming to sell in Japan.

"There’s a wide array of coverage of beef products and pork products," he said. "It’s also an opportunity for us to explain the U.S. beef and pork story to our valued customers in these markets. It’s a show (that attracts countries throughout) Asia."

It’s an ideal venue to see products that are produced by competitors and also Japanese companies to give the U.S. beef and pork industries insight into what U.S.M.E.F. thinks trends will be and developments going forward in Japan and the rest of Asia, Mr. Seng said.

"Japan is going to be very important for the U.S. red-meat industry this year for a number of reasons," he added. "No. 1 is although there is this world financial crisis in every country, including Japan, Japan is not in quite the same condition the U.S. is. It doesn’t have a banking crisis; it doesn’t have a housing crisis. It has an export crisis. Demand is down in the United States and other export markets like China, for example. So, companies are being challenged as far as exporting."

There are growth areas in Japan, he added. "The Yoshinoya beef-bowl chain will be opening 150 outlets this year," Mr. Seng said. "We’re seeing sales are up 6% for convenience stores where they’re selling a lot of meat and home meal replacement-type products. When you break down the market and look more closely at it, there are areas where it’s down but there are also areas where it’s up. U.S.M.E.F. is analyzing these markets; looking at the opportunity areas and we’re working to advance our industry in those areas."

To post your comments on this story, click here: