TOKYO -- Thanks to the efforts of strawberry growers, scallop catchers and others to promote their wares overseas, Japanese exports of fresh food have grown by leaps and bounds, especially in Asia.
Japan's January-July exports of farm produce jumped 40% from the year-earlier period to around 18 billion yen ($148 million), according to the agriculture ministry. The figures do not include rice for food aid. Seafood exports, including dried goods, also climbed 30% to 159 billion yen.
Fruit exports made a particularly strong showing, rising 73% to 7.2 billion yen. The country exported 315 tons of strawberries, more than double that of a year earlier. Fukuoka Prefecture in southern Japan heavily promoted its Amaou variety of strawberries through fairs in Hong Kong and other places. The prefecture's agricultural, forestry and fisheries department expects the next shipments to exceed past deliveries.
Producers sent 14,000 tons of apples overseas, a 73% surge. Since May, Taiwan has required Japanese food imports to have place-of-origin certificates to screen products that have been potentially exposed to radiation. But since products are let through if they have plant quarantine documentation from the place of origin, the strict new rules have not affected Japanese exports. The Aomori Apple Export Council wishes to boost exports to Taiwan by 30% from the previous fiscal year.
Scallop exports rose 53% to 63,000 tons, with over 70% going to China. Hokkaido and area fishery companies traipsed all over Asia holding business talks. "We were able to strengthen our cooperation with local buyers, and our products are now sold at volume vendors," according to Hokkaido's marine products management division.
Japan exported 1,256 tons of eggs, a 56% gain from a year earlier thanks to growing sales in Hong Kong. The bird flu epidemic originating from the U.S. sapped global inventory and Japanese egg prices ballooned, which also bumped up per-unit export costs. But overseas-bound shipments are still at a high-water mark.
Advances in shipping practices also drove exports. Nippon Express started using containers made especially for perishable food products in September 2013. Boxes are filled with ice and dry ice, which preserves freshness, driving down costs compared with shipping food items in small amounts. The Tokyo-based logistics provider transports fruits and vegetables to Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, and the company says April-August shipments approached twice that of a year earlier.
Total agricultural, forestry and fishery exports rose 25% year on year to 413 billion yen. In response to the declining domestic population, the Japanese government set a goal of doubling food and farm product exports to 1 trillion yen by 2020 from 2012 levels.