Japan’s exports of green tea increase by 50 percent in five years

TOKYO, July 30 — Exports of green tea have been showing brisk growth, with the value of shipments in 2022 increasing 50 percent from 2017 and those in the January-May period of this year up 4 percent from the same period last year.

Coping with nontariff barriers, such as different pesticide residue standards depending on countries, has been a challenge. But it is becoming possible to respond to growing overseas demand as organic tea growing regions are expanding and the agriculture ministry has worked to increase the types of pesticides that can be used for cultivation of tea targeted at foreign markets.

According to the farm ministry, the total value of green tea exports in the January-May period amounted to 9.052 billion yen, rising 4 percent from a year before.

The value of exports was pushed up mainly due to the rise in the ratio of shipments of powdered tea, including high-priced matcha, bound for the United States which is the top importer of Japan’s green tea, occupying 34 percent of total exports in terms of volume.

The Japan Tea Export Promotion Council analyzes that commercial use of powdered green tea as an ingredient for sweets and beverages is expanding in the U.S.

Kagoshima Prefecture, the major green tea growing area, is increasingly shifting to cultivation of tea for exports, anticipating demand growth overseas.

Efforts are being made to expand the planting acreage of organic tea. The acreage of organic tea certified by Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS) in the prefecture in fiscal 2022 was 592 hectares, up 40 percent from fiscal 2017.

The prefecture is also working on improving the productivity of organic tea cultivation and expanding sales channels, resulting in its exports in fiscal 2022 reaching 1.34 billion yen, five times more than in fiscal 2017.

Amid a decline in domestic demand for leaf tea, Shizuoka Prefecture is also putting top priority on shifting to cultivation of green tea for exports, including organic tea.

The Shizuoka Prefectural Government set a target of expanding organic tea acreage in fiscal 2025 to roughly double the amount posted in fiscal 2020 and is offering information and subsidies for growers making the shift.

It is also providing assistance for growers to introduce facilities necessary to boost production of matcha whose demand is growing, as well as supporting their efforts to expand sales channels by connecting them with export firms well-versed in overseas needs.

In addition to helping farmers increase organic tea production, the agriculture ministry has been taking measures to expand the types of pesticides that can be used for production of green tea for exports.

The ministry supports collecting data and filing applications to set maximum residue levels permitted in products in importing countries for major ingredients of pesticides used in Japan.

As a result, for instance, a maximum residue limit was established in the U.S. for nine more types of pesticide ingredients in the six years up to the end of fiscal 2022.

The Japan Tea Export Promotion Council says it is seeing growth in the production of green tea that meets the pest management standards required for products to be exported.

“We have been able to increase the volume of exports in response to the massive overseas demand,” an official of the council said.

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