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USMEF Relief and Recovery Efforts Continue

Published: Jun 28, 2011
The response of the U.S. red meat industry in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan has been greatly appreciated by the people of Japan, but the need far outweighs the resources, according to Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO, who just returned from a week-long visit to the devastated areas of northern Japan.
“I do not have the words to convey the scope and the scale of the devastation,” said Seng, who helped distribute 1,000 meals containing U.S. pork to evacuees who are being housed at schools in the city of Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture, one of the hardest-hit areas.

“When you consider that an estimated 30,000 people died within 15 minutes and more than 100,000 others have been left homeless, it is impossible to comprehend the damage and suffering,” Seng said.

Seng and USMEF-Tokyo staff were joined by a group of canoe instructors to serve the meals last week. The canoe instructors have been actively involved in the relief effort since the tsunami struck moments after the March 11 earthquake. They ventured out in their canoes to rescue people who were swept out to sea by the 90-foot waves.

So far, the USMEF Relief and Recovery Effort has served an estimated 92,000 meals to evacuees in the Tohoku region. At the current rate, USMEF intends to serve more than 176,000 meals with the funds it has received from its industry partners.

“The generosity of USMEF’s members and friends is making a difference,” said Seng. “For some, this is their first meal with meat in more than three months. While we can be proud of the help we’re providing, there’s so much more that can and should be done. USMEF is continuing to accept contributions to this very worthy cause.”

USMEF has received more than $500,000 in contributions to the Japan Relief and Recovery Effort from the National Pork Board, Cattlemen’s Beef Board, Federation of State Beef Councils, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Minnesota Pork Producers Association, National Pork Producers Council, Washington Cattlemen’s Association, Indiana Pork, Kentucky Pork Producers Association and individual supporters.

“It is unfortunate that as stories like this fade from the headlines, the public’s interest fades as well,” said Seng. “USMEF – with the support of our industry partners in the United States and Japan – will continue the Relief and Recovery Effort. While the ‘relief’ phase of the campaign continues, we also are focusing a significant part of our energies on the ‘recovery’ phase.”

Seng noted that industry leaders in Japan told him that the most important next step is to energize the Japanese economy and encourage consumers to return to stores and restaurants and spend in order to generate the revenue needed to support the recovery of Japan.

“History has taught Japan that the quickest road to recovery from a disaster is to rejuvenate the economy,” Seng said. “That is where USMEF will be focusing in the second half of 2011 and beyond. Japan is a good friend and partner for the U.S. red meat industry, and that relationship will flourish in the months and years to come.”

Through the first four months of 2011, Japan is the top value market and No. 2 volume market for U.S. pork exports, and ranks among the top five markets for U.S. beef despite access limitations.