Japanese government to strengthen support on exports of food items consumed at home amid COVID-19 pandemic

TOKYO, June 20 – The Japanese government on June 19 presented measures to boost exports of farm produce and food items fit for consumption at home, as people in many countries are shifting to having meals at home amid the new coronavirus outbreak.

As the sales of delivery food and online shopping of food items have been on a rise, the government confirmed at a meeting of a task force on exports of agricultural, forestry and fisheries products and food items its plan to support product development and establishment of processing and shipment facilities to respond to the trend.

Since it is difficult for people to travel across national borders, the government also plans to encourage the use of online business meetings and cross-border e-commerce.

The government has set a target of increasing exports of agricultural produce and food products to 5 trillion yen by 2030. Exports of such products totaled 912.1 billion yen in 2019 in terms of value, still far from the target, but exports between January and April this year dropped 9 percent from the same period last year.

The exports are expected to remain sluggish, as less people are eating out leading to shrinking demand by restaurants and the distribution system has been heavily affected by reduction of passenger flights.

“Exports should be something that directly leads to increasing incomes of workers in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries industry,” farm minister Taku Eto, head of the task force, stressed. “While maintaining the existing sales channels, we should respond to changes in consumer behavior and go on the offensive to boost exports.”

Senior vice ministers and parliamentary secretaries of related ministries who attended the task force meeting shared the changes caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, including the rising sales at retailers in many countries where people are asked to stay home and are buying things to eat at home. Some nations are seeing rising demand in rice, milk and other dairy products for consumption at home, and Japan’s exports of such products are increasing.

Attendants at the meeting agreed to help accelerate product development and establishment of processing and shipping facilities in line with such changes.

Because the global spread of the virus infections is unlikely to end soon, making it difficult for people to travel abroad to expand sales channels, the government will focus on improving the environment to facilitate online business meetings and cross-border e-commerce transactions.

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