By Otsuki Yoko
High prices are anticipated for imported beef and chicken at the end of the year when demand is high. These meats are currently already being traded at high prices. In the aftermath of COVID-19, domestic inventories of imported beef and chicken are decreasing. It is possible that procurement prices will rise further due to soaring prices overseas. Restaurants have started to raise prices, and there are growing concerns about a slowdown in consumption.
Some people in the imported beef market have started to say that “procurement prices in the U.S. are likely to spike after November this year.” According to a meat wholesaler, there are widespread concerns that “restaurants and mass retailers who want to increase their inventory toward the end of the year will have to purchase imports at even higher prices.”
According to the Agriculture and Livestock Industries Corporation (ALIC), the inventory of imported beef was 121,000 tons as of the end of August 2021, a 8.5% reduction compared with the same month in 2020. There is great pushback against the accumulation of inventory in 2020, caused by the decrease in demand from the restaurant industry, but the figure is 0.6% less than that of August 2019 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The increase in prices is due to the soaring prices set by importers. Demand for mainstay American beef is strong in the U.S. and China, whose economies have recovered from COVID-19. According to ALIC, [U.S.] exports to China from January to June 2021 increased about 11.7 times compared with the same period in 2020. Local U.S. prices in August 2021 were 50% higher than those for the same month in 2020. An import trading company official comments, “We cannot buy products with higher prices because we would not be able to sell them.” Trading companies and wholesalers are limiting their procurement to only the minimum amount necessary. (Abridged)