A spokesman for the Japan Pork Producers’ Association (JPPA) confirmed that the industry would continue to lobby the government to retain the protective tariffs that domestically raised pork enjoys at present. And he suggested that media reports indicating Tokyo had agreed to reduce tariffs on imports of US pork over a period of 10 years were premature.
"The two sides have not reached an agreement yet and we are still insisting that the government retains the ‘gate price’ [tariff] system," Hisao Kuramoto, managing director of the association, told GlobalMeatNews.
"We strongly disagree with the government entering into the agreement on pork that has been suggested," he said. "If it goes ahead, then the Japanese pork industry would be destroyed; we could not survive."
Japan’s ministry of agriculture, forestry and fisheries declined to comment on the details of the discussions with Washington on the grounds that they are "ongoing and delicate".
Reports have emerged, however, that Japanese negotiators have put forward a proposal that would see the current tariff of ¥482 (US$4.10) per kilogram of imported US pork slashed to just ¥50/kg (US$0.43/kg) over 10 years.
The reduced tariffs would be applied to a quantitative quota based on current levels of imports. To protect the Japanese market against a sudden surge in cheap pork from overseas in the initial 10 years of the agreement, the deal would allow a temporary reinstatement of tariff levels to ¥482.
At present, 40% of Japan’s pork imports are from the US, with a further 20% from Canada and a similar amount from Denmark. Other nations that export to Japan include Mexico and Chile.
"Japanese pork producers are mostly small and are subject to very strict regulations, which help to make the cost per kilogramme very high, almost double the amount required by producers in the US," said Kuramoto, of the JPPA, which represents nearly 2,000 of the approximately 4,500 pork farmers in Japan.
"The difference is in the quality of Japanese pork," he added. "It can take as little as five days for pork to go from the slaughterhouse to the market, but US imports take a month or longer.
"We are planning more meetings with the ministry and the government about its plans and we hope they will keep the gate price as it is," he said.