Japanese earthquake supply-line disruption

Tokyo, Japan: Japanese food traders and importers are turning to Thailand for their meat supplies after the devasting earthquake and tsunami damaged many cold-storage operations

According to the Bangkok Post, several Japanese companies have asked Thai agricultural conglomerate Betagro for chicken and pork products. Betagro chief operating officer Taepaisitphongse Vasit, says: “The disaster has not only damaged food suppliers in northeastern Japan, but also disrupted cold-storage operations, and uncertainty remains as to when normal business can resume.”

He warned that chicken prices would rise further but pledged that Betagro would not take advantage of the situation.

Container ships are held in the Pacific or at docks in Japan, wary of unloading perishable products like meat because of that nation’s fractured electric grid. Any break in the “cold chain” of refrigeration can spoil meat.

For concern comes with a Japanese government statement that there are new signs of radioactive contamination in some agricultural produce and livestock.

Analysts expect Japan to restore a workable energy grid in the next few weeks that will allow dockworkers to unload and store food stuffs.

Japan’s appetite for American meat is considerable. It consumes 30% of American pork exports. “American hog prices took a real fall here this week,” said David Miller, research director for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation. “But supermarket shelves are pretty empty in Japan; we could see a surge in demand soon.”