September 13, 2021
Japan to see rise in swine and pork productions in 2022
Japan's swine production is set to rise next year following a rebound in its sow population while its pork production is expected to increase 2% to meet strong demand for domestic pork, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
At the start of 2022, Japan's swine herd is projected at 9.11 million head, down roughly 2% from 2021 beginning stocks, reflecting a return to normal slaughter rates and low 2021 sow stocks.
The 2021 total beginning stocks are revised upwards by 2% based on official data provided by Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), which points to a faster than expected recovery from classical swine fever (CSF) outbreaks which started in September 2018. It is forecast that 2022 sow beginning stocks will increase from 2021 as operators continue to rebuild herd sizes. Strong demand for domestic pork will drive an increase of slaughter and pork production next year.
According to MAFF statistics, as of February 1, there were 3,850 hog operations, down 11% from 2019. Hog operators struggle to find successors, resulting in ongoing declines in the number of operations. While the average operation size continues to grow, up 14% since 2019, the total number of integrated hog operations are decreasing regardless of farm size.
According to Japan's customs, the country's swine imports in the first half of 2021 were 267 head, down 80% from 2020, with no imports from Denmark. Swine imports are anticipated to rebound when flight schedules return to normal and will accelerate the rebuilding of the farm-based hog population in 2022. It is estimated that 2022 pork production will be up from 2021, reflecting steady demand for domestic pork, especially in the retail sector.
Total slaughter numbers in the first six months of 2021 were up 1.4% from 2020. The slaughter speed slowed in June due to the CSF outbreak in the first half of 2021, resulting in a mid-year carcass price spike. Carcass prices in the first half of 2021 were lower than 2020 but still above the five-year average.
Japan's pork consumption in 2022 is expected to increase from 2021 as the country eases COVID-19 related movement restrictions, leading to increased food service consumption. Food service demand for pork in 2021 remains stagnate as COVID-19 cases rise and Japan has implemented measures to restrict movement in large, urban areas.
Conversely, in the first months of 2021, household demand, which accounts for 50% of Japan's pork consumption, remained as strong as 2020 consumption. With more at-home consumption, demand for easy-to-prepare and products with a long shelf life, like ham and sausage, has grown but remained largely stable throughout the pandemic.
Pork imports are expected to increase in 2022 after dampened demand from the food service industry and global freight constraints resulted in a large decline in 2021. Total imports in the first half of 2021 decreased by 5% from 2020 especially frozen pork, largely used by the food service industries, was down by 21%.
Industry sources attributed the low import numbers to high global prices for frozen pork. In response, Japanese importers relied on stocks and imported just enough to cover current demand, which drove imports from Europe down 12%. This trend is likely to continue in the second half of 2021.
Industry sources also expected US chilled pork prices to remain high due to a constrained supply of products intended for the Japanese market. COVID-19-related countermeasures in the United States have slowed production of labor-intensive products, of which Japan is a major importer.
Industry sources also attributed reduced imports to the tight global freight market and container shortage at western ports in the United States. As the retail demand in Japan for imported chilled pork remains strong, Japanese importers also project imports to increase in 2022 as port conditions improve and prices drop.
Shipping constraints have also affected the import of prepared or preserved pork, including ground seasoned pork, despite strong household demand for these products.
FAS/Tokyo projects that the total pork imports in 2022 will rebound from the decline in 2021 but remain lower than pre-pandemic levels until food service demand fully recovers.