Hokkaido’s 22 agricultural cooperatives jointly start exporting sweet potatoes

Hokkaido, Jul. 18 – Hokkaido Prefecture’s 22 agricultural cooperatives (JAs) began exporting sweet potatoes cooperatively. They plan to ship approximately 550 tons a year through a new joint sweet potato sorting facility, one of Japan’s largest, established in the coastal city of Tomakomai by the Hokuren Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives and a local private company. Their initial primary market is Southeast Asia, where baked sweet potatoes are booming. In the future, they’ll expand the production volume further.

The current coverage of the 22 JAs is large, from the northernmost area of Okhotsk to the Southern regions of the island. Their production area has reached 35 hectares, up significantly from 10 hectares in 2022, the year 11 JAs started their trial shipment. To boost production for export even further, they decided to join a government-led project, the Global Farmers/Fishermen/Foresters/Food Manufacturers Project (GFP), in the fiscal year 2023.

One of their key schemes is the creation of a large-scale product sorting system by Hokuren and Tomakomai Futo, Co., Ltd., a local port operating company, in November last year. It is one of the biggest facilities of this kind in Japan and can sort 6 tons of sweet potatoes a day. It’ll also start handling curing processes in the future. Being one of Japan’s largest logistic hubs, the Tomakomai Port is a good place for developing a sweet potato export base.

Their high potential markets are Singapore and Thailand, where baked sweet potatoes and other sweets are becoming increasingly popular.

Growing sweet potatoes is beneficial in terms of agricultural management. In Hokkaido, where dry-field farming is popular, farmers avoid replanting failures by producing different products. Sweet potatoes will be a good new option as they are in high demand and help them boost their field crops.

“There is a demand for sweet potatoes in Japan and abroad, and there is a growing demand for the products of Hokkaido. We want to help farmers to introduce more machines, establish growing methods, and increase their production area,“ a person in charge of the development of distribution channels of Hokuren said.

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