Expand Sales Channels by Making Use of Internet

Japan’s exports of agricultural, forestry and fisheries products and foods are growing steadily. It is hoped that increasing “earning power” through the expansion of exports will vitalize the agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries.

In 2022, exports of such products increased 14.3% from the previous year to ¥1.4148 trillion, reaching a record high for the 10th consecutive year.

This is largely due to a recovery in demand for eating out in many countries and regions, which had declined due to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the global expansion of demand from people staying home. A feeling that the weaker yen is making Japanese products relatively cheap has also worked as a tailwind, according to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry.

By product, scallop exports increased 42.4%, mainly to the United States and China. Exports of Japan-made whisky, which is becoming increasingly popular overseas, grew 21.5%, and exports of fruits and vegetables such as apples and strawberries increased 24.3%.

As part of its economic growth strategy, the government has set a goal of increasing such exports to ¥2 trillion by 2025, and it is on track to achieve this goal ahead of schedule. It is hoped that the government will not let up and will focus even more on increasing exports.

Traditionally, Japanese restaurants overseas have been the main sales channel. Recently, sales channels for individuals have been expanding through online shopping and other means, the ministry said.

The U.S. website Amazon.com has a special site for Japanese companies that is supported by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO). Japanese-brand foods and other products are sold from that platform to the rest of the world.

JETRO is also helping Japanese firms get their food products onto online shopping sites around Asia.

If Japanese food becomes popular in overseas households via the internet, further increases in exports can be expected. It is hoped that the government, JETRO and producer organizations will continue to gather information on preferences and other data in each country and region to effectively promote sales.

Another bright spot is that the number of foreign visitors to Japan is beginning to recover due to the relaxation of border control measures taken against the novel coronavirus.

Many foreigners look forward to eating Japanese food during their visit. It will be important to take advantage of the synergistic effect with tourism, for example, by marketing foods popular among visitors to Japan to overseas markets.

As of 2019, exports accounted for about 2% of Japan’s total production of agricultural, forestry, fisheries and food products, which is low compared to other major developed countries. As the domestic market is expected to weaken due to the declining birth rate, it can be said that there is plenty of room for exports to expand.

The domestic agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries have an aging workforce, but there are some young leaders who are using online shopping and other means to sell their products overseas.

If income from exports increases, there will be even more activity in these areas. It is important to make these industries attractive.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 16, 2023)