Japanese “wagyu” beef exports plunging on coronavirus outbreak

25, Mar. 2020

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HONG KONG, NNA – Japanese wagyu beef farmers are facing a sharp drop in their premium “wagyu” beef exports as the global novel coronavirus outbreak looms over dining sectors around the world.

The beef shipment amount to Hong Kong, the second-largest destination after Cambodia, may plunge by 70 percent of average years, the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations said, according to a Kyodo News report.

Japan’s nationwide association of farmers, known as Zen-Noh, revealed on Tuesday the gloomy outlook at a press conference with plans for the coming business year from April.

The farmers’ group said the viral crisis is hitting the beef exports, which had been a driving force for Japan’s agricultural exports overall, according to the report.

The exports of livestock products from Japan stood at 53.2 billion yen ($478 million) last year, with beef making up for 56 percent of the total, or a record 29.7 billion yen, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The country exported 5.07 billion yen ($46 million) of wagyu beef to Hong Kong in the same year, with a share of 17 percent after Cambodia at 29 percent, the ministry’s data show.

Zen-Noh also worried beef shipment to Europe and the United States might drop to zero, as travel and outing restrictions trigger closures of restaurants, the report said.

Zen-Noh said it would establish a branch in Shanghai, China, according to the report. It will endeavor to expand wagyu beef exports since the Chinese government lifted a ban on the imports of Japanese beef in December 2019, which was introduced in 2001 following the eruption of mad cow disease in Japan.