After a mere 2% increase over last year, the expansion of agricultural exports—the key to turning Japanese agriculture into a growth industry—is slowing down. The pace suggests the government’s goal to “increase agricultural exports to one trillion yen by 2019” will not be attainable. But Japanese products are enjoying popularity overseas due to their high quality, and exports, especially of fruit and rice, are steadily increasing.
One of the reasons for sluggish exports was the poor landing of certain marine products, such as scallops. The products from regions where local government and the private sector cooperated in exploring overseas markets have fared well. These include apples (up 18%), strawberries (up 42%), rice (up 43%), green tea (up 22%), and beef (up 12%).
Though environmental conditions affect agricultural and marine production, a steady supply is the key to increasing exports. Starting this fall, the JA Group (the Japanese agricultural cooperatives) will establish a system of “relay shipment,” in which producers in different regions with different production schedules ship out the products in turn so as to maintain a steady supply of “made in Japan” products.
The biggest export markets for Japanese products are Hong Kong (up 7% from the same period last year), the U.S. (down 2%), Taiwan (up 5%), China (down 8%), and South Korea (up 1%). In Asia, the key to increasing market share is product freshness. Yamato Transport Co., Ltd. has collaborated with cargo operations contracted by ANA Holdings to start home delivery service in Hong Kong and other countries. The government will introduce reefer ships and other facilities to keep products fresh in transport.
Non-tariff barriers are another factor hindering export growth. The U.S. and South Korea regulate the import of peaches and cherries from Japan citing pest concerns. China and South Korea have placed an import ban on products from certain areas since the Fukushima nuclear accident. The government will create an organization to double negotiation efforts with these countries. (Abridged)