Exports of beef and sake top 20 billion yen mark for the first time in 2018, with green tea shipments reaching new all-time high

TOKYO, Feb. 10 – Exports of Japanese beef and sake topped a 20-billion-yen mark in 2018, and Japan’s green tea shipments abroad reached a new all-time high, according to Finance Ministry statistics on exports of farm produce and processed foods.

The increase in exports is mainly attributable to strong demand in markets in Asian countries and the United States.

Agriculture, forestry and fishery exports in 2018 showed a preliminary figure of 906.8 billion yen, up 12 percent from the previous year to hit a record high for the sixth straight year, buoyed by increased shipments of beef, sake and green tea.

Exports of Japanese beef totaled 24.7 billion yen, up 29 percent from a year before, and reached 3,560 tons in terms of volume, up 32 percent, both record high since 1988, when the comparable data became available.

Beef exports to Taiwan, which resumed imports of Japanese beef in September 2017, rose sharply, marking 4.1 billion yen in value and 628 tons in terms of volume, tripling from the previous year.

“With so many different cuts and cooking styles already common in other countries, it is easy for wagyu consumption to spread,” said a beef exporter of Tokyo.

By country and region, Cambodia replaced Hong Kong as the top importer of Japanese beef in terms of both value and volume, with shipments totaling 5.6 billion yen, up 38 percent from the previous year, or 786 tons in volume, up 45 percent. The main export product to the nation was frozen loin.

Beef exports to the U.S. reached 3.3 billion yen, up 10 percent, or 421 tons, up 13 percent. The shipments exceeded the 200-ton low-tariff quota for Japanese beef in April.

Japanese sake exports also hit record high in both value and volume, posting 22.232 billion yen, up 19 percent, or 25,747 kiloliters, up 10 percent. The rate of increase was higher in value than in volume, thanks to a boost in exports of high-priced, specially designated sake – the types that are produced under stricter rice polishing ratio and brewing process – such as Daiginjo.

In terms of country and region, shipments to the U.S. topped the list with 6.3 billion yen, up 5 percent from a year before, followed by Hong Kong with 3.8 billion yen and China with 3.6 billion yen, both rising by 35 percent. “It will become important in the future to tap new markets in other areas including the European Union,” said an official of the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association.

Exports of green tea in 2018 totaled 15.3 billion yen, up 7 percent from a year before, hitting the highest since the comparable data became available in 1988. Shipments increased 10 percent from the previous year in terms of volume to mark the record high amount of 5,102 tons, topping the 5,000-ton mark for the first time.

By country and region, the U.S. pushed up the overall exports as the largest importer with 6.8 billion yen, up 15 percent. Among 17 countries and regions which import 100 million yen or more worth of green tea in a year, 11 posted a year-on-year increase.

“Matcha is becoming a popular item on restaurant menus,” said an official at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO).

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