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Growing Expectations Placed on Japan's Exports of Food

June 05, 2006


Since around the year 2000, Japan's food exports have been growing. For regions with a high dependence on primary industries and accelerating rates of population aging and birthrate decline, food exports are the subject of great expectations as a future engine of the local economy. As foodstuffs account for a very low proportion of Japan's overall exports, even as compared with those of other developed nations, it may be concluded that there is considerable scope the expansion of food exports.

There are three reasons for the growth of food exports:
(i) growing interest in Japanese food, which is considered to be healthy,
(ii) the growth of the market for high value-added goods due to the rise in income levels in Asia countries, and (iii) the lowering of tariff and non-tariff barriers in importing countries in conjunction with the spread of free trade.
It is likely that this trend will continue, and that conditions will be increasingly favorable to the growth of food exports.

Under these conditions, the key is to aim for export growth through a focus on high value-added products, in which Japan's agricultural sector excels.One good example is exports of apples to Taiwan. Since 2002, shipments of apples to Taiwan have seen a tenfold increase. However, the export unit price is twice that of apples from other countries.The reason that exports have risen sharply in spite of this price disadvantage is that the government hasemphasized quality and safety, and succeeded in expanding the market for high value-added products.

In the medium-to-long term, as the number of consumers with higher incomes increases, especially in China, Japan's food exports may well see substantial growth and are highly promising as a means of revitalizing local economies. To this end, the government should draw up a program of positive support measures, including PR activities in overseas markets and the lowering of non-tariff barriers such as quarantine requirements.

For more information on the content of this report, please contact: Hideki Matsumura Ishikawa the Japan Research Institute, Limited.

Tel: 03-3288-4524

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