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Suga’s ambitious food export target called into doubt

  • September 18, 2020
  • , Jiji Press , 3:36 a.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Sept. 17 (Jiji Press)–The feasibility of increasing Japan’s annual exports of farm, forestry and fishery products and food to 5 trillion yen in 2030, a key policy target of new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, has been called into question.


As the figure is more than five times Japan’s exports of such products in 2019, some in his ruling Liberal Democratic Party call it too ambitious, even though the country needs to look to overseas markets at a time when the domestic market is shrinking due to falling population.


The target figure set for 2030 is roughly 10 pct of Japan’s annual output of agriculture, forestry and fishery products and food totaling some 50 trillion yen.


At his inaugural press conference on Thursday, new Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Kotaro Nogami voiced his resolve to attain the target, saying, “The government will provide support for business negotiations in order to meet demand from abroad.”


Hong Kong and the United States are major importers of Japanese food, with products such as “wagyu” Japanese beef, sake and scallops especially popular.


In 2019, Japan’s total exports of farm, forestry and fishery products and food stood at 912.1 billion yen, failing to reach the target of at least 1 trillion yen set for the year.


Exports in January-June this year dropped 8.2 pct from a year before to 412 billion yen due to the new coronavirus pandemic. For the whole of 2020, exports are estimated to fall short of the 2019 level.


Raising the annual figure to 5 trillion yen “would be impossible,” an LDP lawmaker with interest in the agriculture industry said. “Even 2 trillion yen or 3 trillion yen would be very tough.”


Some in the agriculture ministry are discussing the idea of integrating the division handling exports and that for international operations to create a new bureau, to which financial resources and personnel will be allocated intensively.


Meanwhile, a government source said that Japan has no choice but to boost the value of exports by giving added value to produce such as rice and beef by processing them into sake or other foods.


A total of 19 economies, including South Korea, still have in place import restrictions on Japanese food introduced in the wake of the March 2011 accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s <9501> tsunami-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan.


The novel coronavirus crisis is making it harder for Japan to boost food exports and develop new markets.

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