Exports of Agricultural, Forestry, Fishery Products: Diversify Sales Channels to Ensure Stable Expansion

Sales channels need to be diversified to increase exports of agricultural, forestry and fishery products and other food items in a stable manner. It is hoped that a strategy will be strengthened once again to expand exports by creating products that will meet the needs of overseas markets.

In 2023, exports of agricultural, forestry and fishery products and other foods reached ¥1.4547 trillion, up 2.9% from a year earlier, marking a record high for the 11th consecutive year. In addition to the progressing normalization of economic activities in many countries and regions after the COVID-19 pandemic, the depreciation of yen also provided a tailwind.

However, the growth rate fell significantly from the 14.2% marked in 2022. This is attributable to a blanket ban on imports of Japanese marine products that China has imposed since last summer in response to the release into the ocean of treated water from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

While the ban has dragged down Japan’s exports of scallops, which are a major export item in terms of value, its exports of sake and whiskey have also dropped due to the economic slowdown in China. This highlights the risks of depending on a specific country or region for exports.

On the other hand, China remains Japan’s largest export destination even though overall exports of agricultural, forestry and fishery products and other foods to the country declined by 14.6% from the previous year. The Japanese government must persistently call on China to swiftly lift its import ban on Japanese marine products, which is not based on scientific evidence.

In 2023, Japan’s exports to many countries and regions other than China — such as Hong Kong, the United States, South Korea and Australia — steadily increased.

Washoku cuisine has continued to boom overseas, and many foreign people have reportedly become fans of Japanese food after visiting Japan. There must be considerable room for promoting Japanese products overseas. It is crucial that the public and private sectors will work together to expand sales in various countries and regions.

To that end, it is important to create products that will meet local demand.

In 2023, exports of green tea increased by 33.3%. Green tea has been recognized as a health food item that allows consumers to take in all its nutrition when made into matcha, a powdered form of green tea. It has proven popular in Western countries, where health consciousness has grown. It can be said this is a successful case of offering a product that meets the needs of local consumers.

Japanese beef, also known as wagyu, has also seen a significant increase in exports to such destinations as Hong Kong and Taiwan, where demand for eating out has picked up.

It is hoped that effective sales promotion campaigns will be conducted after looking into demand in each country and region.

China’s import ban has had an outsize impact as the country also processed scallops and other Japanese marine products and then exported them to third countries.

Given the situation, the Japanese government has begun supporting businesses’ efforts to change the locations for shelling U.S.-bound scallops, a step previously conducted in China, to Vietnam and other countries and regions.

The Japanese government is also urged to make efforts to disperse risks by reexamining the supply chain for exports of agricultural, forestry and fishery products and other food items.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 11, 2024)