Japan’s vegetable imports increase in 2018 due to bad weather

TOKYO, Dec. 7 ― Japan’s fresh vegetable imports are likely to break the 900,000-ton barrier in 2018 for the first time in six years, amid a fall in domestic output affected by the bad weather, government data has shown.

Fresh vegetable import volume in the first ten months of 2018 totaled 804,863 tons, according to data from the finance ministry. That already exceeded the annual 800,000-ton barrier in the last decade.

Japanese trading companies said that falling vegetable output as a result of heavy rainfall in the north and drought in west raised domestic prices, driving the food manufacturing sector to shift to imported produce.

“The type of contracts is changing,” an official from a trading company said.

“We used to have spot contracts to offset temporary shortage. But now, we have more long-term import contracts to get a sustainable supply of vegetables,” he added.

The effects of shortages are particularly pronounced in certain vegetables: Chinese cabbage imports in the first ten months of this year surged more than eight times to 15,412 tons from a year ago. Cabbage nearly tripled, while iceberg lettuce almost doubled.

An industry official said: “We are beginning to see more traders turn to imported produce, especially when there is a shortage. It’s a tough time. We need to strengthen our production base.”

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