Diet discussions are underway regarding the bill on the Japan-U.S. trade pact, which covers a range of farm products. American peanuts compete with Chinese ones in the Japanese market. American Peanut Council Senior Vice President Stephanie Grunenfelde sat down with the Nikkei during her recent visit to Tokyo and expressed her hope that the lowering of Japan’s tariffs will boost U.S. exports of peanuts to Japan.
Q: What’s your take on demand for American peanuts in Japan?
Grunenfelde: In terms of export destination share (in 2018), Europe accounted for 31%, followed by Canada at 24%, and China and Vietnam at 11% each. Japan accounted for 4%, making it one of our largest export destinations in Asia. Our shipments to Japan have leveled off of late. American peanuts have an advantage in terms of taste and food safety. We also think about the sustainability of the fields where we grow peanuts.
In Japan, shelled peanuts, which are our core product, compete with those from China. The U.S. is farther from Japan than China is, so the shipping time and costs are greater. Once the Japan-U.S. trade accord comes into force, the tariffs on pre-processing raw peanuts, for example, will be eliminated immediately. American peanuts will become cost competitive and will be consumed more in Japan, we expect.
Q: How about output in 2019?
Grunenfelde: We anticipate output will be around 2.5 million tons. This is slightly less than in 2018, but overall we are in good shape.
Q: How about worldwide?
Grunenfelde: Peanuts are consumed worldwide, and demand is growing. China, India, and the U.S. are the main producers, and all are increasing their output. New players are also emerging, such as Brazil and Argentina.
Our shipments to China are on the decline due to the trade tensions between the U.S. and China. Our export of peanut butter to Europe is also declining because the European Union imposes a tariff on our products.
Q: There are many kinds of nuts on the market, such as almonds, walnuts, and macadamias. Do you think the competition for peanuts will heat up?
Grunenfelde: Peanuts are less expensive and more nutritious than almonds, walnuts, and other premium nuts. Peanut prices have been stable over the past few years. It also takes less water to grow peanuts than almonds or walnuts.