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USMEF Relief, Recovery Programs Continue in Japan

Published: Apr 14, 2011
Despite the presence of ongoing earthquake aftershocks and tens of thousands of displaced citizens, USMEF-Japan is continuing with the vast majority of its scheduled programs in the No. 1 export value market for U.S. pork and No. 3 beef market. At the same time, it is actively involved in the relief effort.

Retail giant Aeon, which has 1,550 stores and annual retail sales of more than $58 billion, recently partnered with USMEF on an American Pork Fair that included the introduction of “Gotouchi Gourmet” (regional cuisine). The promotion featured several U.S. pork items: Texas-style baby back ribs, North Carolina pulled pork sandwiches and Iowa chops.

The target for the promotion was to sell 1,000 metric tons (2.2 million pounds) of chilled pork including loins, bellies, tenderloins and back ribs during the promotion period between March 22 and April 10 – a 15 percent increase from last year.

“While we’ve had to make a few adjustments, the majority of our programs are being conducted as planned,” said Greg Hanes, USMEF assistant vice president of marketing. “Most of the locations in the heavily populated areas where we have our partnership programs scheduled have substantially recovered from the earthquake. A few events have been moved from the Tohoku region to areas less affected by the devastation, but USMEF’s approach will remain unchanged.”

In addition to the American Pork Fair, Aeon is partnering with USMEF on a new joint promotion for U.S. beef and pork products in the Yamanashi region.

“From Iowa to Yamanashi” is the theme of the pork promotion, which recalls the 1960 shipment of hogs from Iowa to the Yamanashi prefecture to help that region’s pork industry recover from two devastating typhoons. The beef promotion is under the umbrella of USMEF-Japan’s “We Care” campaign, which has been the theme of the U.S. beef imaging campaign in Japan since 2006.

USMEF has utilized broad-based industry support for the Aeon promotions, with funding coming from the Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Corn Promotion Board, Iowa Corn Growers Association, United Soybean Board, Minnesota Soybean Board, Ohio Soybean Council, Kentucky Corn Board and USDA Market Access Program (MAP).

USMEF also has been actively involved in the relief effort in Japan, collecting more than $500,000 for use in helping feed those affected by the disaster. Beyond that, it sees a larger challenge in supporting the revitalization of Japan’s economy.

“Based on our experience in Japan following the 1995 Kobe earthquake, we see a pattern where the traditionally conservative Japanese consumer could be driven to even more conservative spending in the near future,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “They are facing a proposed tax increase to help fund the recovery effort; fear of the repeated earthquake aftershocks, which is causing people to stay home; concerns about nuclear contamination; and the continued rolling brown-outs, which affect people’s willingness to both travel and purchase perishable items.”

In talking with Japanese executives at leading retail and foodservice outlets, Seng said that the most consistent message he is hearing is that consumers need to be lured out to resume dining and shopping. That spending will help fuel the economic rebound and support the recovery.

USMEF Relief Efforts While USMEF’s work with the retail and foodservice community has hardly skipped a beat, the relief efforts also are moving ahead.

USMEF is working with Higashiyama Foodservice, operator of a yakiniku restaurant chain based in Sendai, to conduct free U.S. beef and pork yakiniku meal distribution. Higashiyama Foodservice itself was damaged by the disaster, but it decided to distribute meals to help improve morale among people in the damaged area, and USMEF has pledged support.

USMEF also is supporting Chef-1, a project conducted by popular chefs to distribute free meals at three locations in Chiba, a prefecture in the Tokyo/Kanto region that was heavily hit by the earthquake and tsunami. USMEF is donating locally purchased U.S. beef for sandwiches that will be prepared by the 5 participating chefs. Chef-1 will provide several hundred portions of roast beef sandwiches and pasta with meat sauce.

2011 Export Forecast USMEF has forecast that exports of U.S. beef and pork should remain on track during 2011, and results through February have been positive. Beef exports for the first two months of 2011 are up over 2010 levels by 75 percent in volume and 81 percent in value to 20,359 metric tons (44.9 million pounds) valued at $106.2 million.

Pork exports for the same period are up 19 percent in volume and 17 percent in value to 74,498 metric tons (164.2 million pounds) valued at $280.2 million.