Japan may reduce beef imports and consumption during the next decade as the country’s population slides, the USDA said.

Imports may drop to 1.35 billion lbs., down 9.6% this year, if the country’s population change follows U.S. Census Bureau projections, the USDA’s Economic Research Service said recently in a special report on its website. Beef imports may total 658,000 tons next year. Forecasts assume personal income and beef prices will remain unchanged.

“Rising beef prices, or a continuation of the economic slump seen in 2008 and 2009, could exacerbate this underlying decline dictated by Japan’s demographic conditions,” the USDA said. “Current projections, however, point to a return to economic growth, and easier access to U.S. beef could lead to lower average prices in Japan.”

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