July 26, 2011


Japan corn imports may drop to lowest level in 25 years



Corn imports into Japan may drop to its lowest level in a quarter century as concerns on radiation-tainted meat curbs livestock production.


Corn shipments may drop 5% to 15.4 million tonnes this year, according to Nobuyuki Chino, the president of Tokyo-based Continental Rice Corp.


This would be the lowest since the 1985-1986 marketing year, USDA data show.


Japan's corn purchases in the first five months of the year fell 4.5% to 6.47 million tonnes, according to government data. Cargoes of feed corn slumped 8.2% to 4.05 million tons.


The drop in Japanese corn demand may have little impact globally, with the USDA forecasting a 5.3% gain in export trade to 94.9 million tonnes in the 2011-2012 marketing year, with China buying as much as five million tonnes this year to replenish stockpiles, according to Shawn McCambridge, a senior grain analyst at Jefferies Bache LLC in Chicago.


Orders for domestic beef have declined this month, said Kohei Akiyama, a spokesman for Nippon Meat Packers. He declined to estimate the scale of the drop.


"Supermarkets are adding shelf-space for foreign beef and reducing displays of local meat as the radioactive contamination is widening," said Susumu Harada, a senior director at the US Meat Export Federation in Tokyo.


Beef imports rose 11% in the first five months and may maintain that pace for the rest of the year, said Tetsuro Shimizu, chief researcher at Norinchukin Research Institute Co.


US beef exports to Japan will probably rise 33% to 140,000 tonnes this year, Philip Seng, chief executive officer of the US Meat Export Federation, said in May. Shares of Osaka-based Nippon Meat Packers Inc., Japan's biggest meat processor, slumped 4.2% on July 19, when authorities banned cattle shipments from Fukushima.


Japanese authorities found 637 cows fed with hay tainted by radioactive cesium and shipped to market, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said July 19. The Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant was damaged by the magnitude-9 earthquake and 23-foot (7 metres) tsunami that hit Japan on March 11.

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