Japan’s Ibaraki farmers push sweet potato exports to Canada

NAMEGATA, Jan. 17 — A Japanese farmers’ group in Ibaraki prefecture has shipped its sweet potatoes to Canada for the first time, aiming to transform themselves from tobacco leaf growers to the new crop exporters.

JA Namegata, an agriculture cooperative in Ibaraki prefecture, plans to export 8 metric tons of its sweet potatoes, Beniyuka, to Canada this year.

Due to the reduction of tobacco-price supports, farmers in Namegata city have been turning from tobacco to sweet potatoes. They nearly doubled production to 700 acres and more than doubled revenue to 3.7 billion yen in the last 10 years.

Last year, they exported their sweet potatoes to Thailand and Malaysia for the first time. This year, they turned to the North American market.

The Japanese government has set a target to boost the annual value of agricultural exports at 1 trillion yen by 2020.

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