Japan is the number one export destination for Australian beef
with more than 38% of Australian beef exports heading to the Land of the Rising
Sun. But what about lamb?
The fondness for Genghis Khan-style dishes (Mongolian
barbecue) has been a key driver for consumption of sheepmeat in Japan over the
past decade. Sheepmeat is not the number one protein choice for the Japanese,
who much prefer seafood.
Annual sheepmeat consumption per capita in Japan is estimated
at under 200g – equivalent to what the average Australian consumes every
fortnight. In comparison, seafood consumption is around 30kg and beef
consumption is just less than 6kg per capita.
Further rises in sheepmeat consumption have been hampered by
the natural disasters which devastated Japan in 2011 and the tough economic
conditions that followed and continue to burden the country.
sheepmeat (lamb and mutton) exports to Japan have traditionally risen 4%
year-on-year, however subdued demand following the natural disasters in March
2011 have seen lamb exports fall 4% year-onyear in 2011, to 7,381 tonnes
The decline was mainly in chilled lamb shipments, which make
up the majority of lamb shipments to Japan. Frozen lamb volumes however
increased 4% to 2,700 tonnes swt.
Contrary to volumes decreasing, the value of lamb exported
rose 4% to A$64.2 million due to strong lamb prices in Australia and a robust
Meanwhile, Australian mutton exports to Japan surged in volume
and value with a 19% year-on-year increase to 4,505 tonnes swt and a 33% lift in
value to A$32.4 million.
The Japanese economy, like many others around the world
remains sluggish, further impacting sheepmeat consumption as consumers prefer to
spend their money on what they’re familiar with rather than experiment with
something new like lamb.
Also impacting demand are reduced tourist numbers to the
Hokkaido region following the natural disasters. It is estimated that 50% of
Australian sheepmeat, predominantly mutton, imported to Japan is consumed in
Hokkaido as Genghis Khan cuisine.
Australia is the main supplier of sheepmeat to Japan,
accounting for 70% of imported product, followed by New Zealand at
What do Japanese consumers think about Australian lamb?
Japanese consumers regard Australian lamb as ‘healthy’, however it is generally
eaten when dining out.
Healthiness remains a key purchase driver for lamb among
Japanese consumers but a limited understanding of how to cook lamb and the
resistance to high value meat due to the slow economy are barriers to expanding
lamb sales, particularly at the retail level.
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