Japan’s hen egg exports up in 1st half of 2019, demand for hot-spring eggs growing

TOKYO, Aug. 20 – Japan’s export of hen eggs is now strong. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), Japan’s export of shell chicken eggs in the first six months of 2019 amounted approximately 1 billion yen. It’s 60% higher than the same period last year, which was the highest in the past 30 years. In Hong Kong, the primary market for eggs from Japan, both the sales of raw eggs for supermarkets and the demand for onsen tamago (hot-spring eggs) are growing. Onsen tamago is a half-boiled egg with soft and creamy yoke and half-done white. It’s become popular among consumers outside Japan as it is safe and has long best-before period.

According to the farm ministry, shell egg export in the January-June period rose 56% from last year to 980 million yen (3,862 tons). The growth rate was 9 points higher than 47% in the previous year.

By country and region, the export to Hong Kong was the highest – 900 million yen. “People like them as they are so clean and safe to eat almost raw, and local supermarkets are now allocating larger shelves for hen eggs,” an industry official said. The higher demand for onsen tamago comes primarily from restaurants with rice bowl menu. The best-before period of onsen tamago is more than four times longer than regular raw eggs, and it makes it possible to save shipping cost by exporting by sea.

The egg export in full year 2018 was 1.5 billion yen, and 99% went to Hong Kong, but the market in 2019 is bigger and includes more emerging countries. The export to Taiwan restarted in January 2018, and the ban on the export to the U.S. was lifted in October 2018. The shipping to the three countries and region, including Singapore, totaled 50 million yen. The figure is relatively small, but the share rose to 5%.

Japan is a big producer of hen eggs. According to the statistical survey on hen egg distribution by the ministry, the egg production in Japan was 2.63 million tons in 2018 and hit new records for two consecutive years. The production is now growing continuously at a pace far exceeding the previous year, forcing the producers to sell them at an unprecedentedly low price. So, they need to expand the market and turn hopeful eyes on the new demand in the overseas markets.

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