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Business trends

Tokyo connects small Japanese companies with Thai food makers

Businesses look to feed off Thailand's global network and halal expertise

A Muslim guest fills her plate at a halal-certified restaurant in Bangkok. SMEs in Tokyo will try to leverage Thailand's expertise in halal products.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- A business support organization affiliated with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government wants to connect food makers in Thailand with small and medium-size enterprises in Tokyo to develop new sales channels and markets.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Small and Medium Enterprise Support Center will support companies by leveraging the strengths of Thailand -- one of the world's biggest food exporters -- such as the country's global reach and expertise in halal products.

The Thai government is boosting food exports to the United Arab Emirates and other Middle Eastern countries with a focus on halal. Japanese companies are likely to see more business opportunities in halal, as foreign visitors are expected to increase in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Last month, the center hosted about 200 people from the Thai and Japanese food industries in Bangkok. Participants included Thailand's Betagro group and food makers that have collaborated with Japanese companies in the past.

At the event, attendees exchanged information on tie-ups and the challenges they have faced.

The center will also invite Thai food makers to meetings at Foodex Japan, one of Asia's largest food and beverage trade shows, which kicked off on March 6 at the Makuhari Messe convention center near Tokyo.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Small and Medium Enterprise Support Center is trying to connect Japanese SMEs with food makers in Thailand.

Up to 120 companies can attend the meetings for free. Five Thai companies, including canned sweet corn maker Sunsweet and canned tuna maker Sea Value, will participate.

The five are looking to land contracts with Japanese companies and expand sales channels in Japan to convenience stores and supermarkets. They also aim to boost efficiency by introducing automation and labor-saving technology.

In 2015, the center opened its first overseas office in Bangkok to help small companies in Tokyo do business in the country. Japanese businesses entered the Thai market early, establishing many food joint ventures with local companies.

Japanese food is also popular in Thailand, which boasts relatively high income levels compared to other Southeast Asian countries.

"There is a good chance that the food and processing technologies of small Japanese companies will be welcomed by Thai companies," said an official from the center.

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