Prerequisites for market expansion of organic farm products in Japan:Case study of agricultural cooperatives and producers’ groups

July 1st, 2019
Norinchukin Research Institute Co., Ltd.
HORIUCHI Yoshihiko, Research Counselor


In recent years, while the area under organic cultivation and the market for organic
farm products have been posting double-digit growth worldwide, the growth in Japan has been slow and the organic market in the nation remains a niche, still small compared with those of Western countries.

This is attributable to various factors, including the difficulty of maintaining stable
production of organic products in Japan due to weather conditions. Production costs are
high as organic agriculture requires a great deal of labor to weed and distribution expenses are also high since production areas are scattered and are dependent on small cargo delivery, both resulting in high retail prices.

This means not many organic products are available at large retail stores accessible by
many consumers.

Amid increasing public interest in healthy eating, however, there are moves also in
Japan among some major retailers to increase the efficiency of distribution channels and boost sales of organic products in hopes of future market growth.

Through looking at cases of agricultural cooperatives and producers’ groups which are
boosting production and sales of organic food in the country, this paper offers measures
that need to be taken from producers’ standpoint to expand the market, such as organizing growers and building a consistent production management system, as well as securing sustainable prices and making efforts to enhance the added value of their products.


The global market of organic farm produce and processed foods totaled 92.1 billion euro
in 2017 – equivalent to roughly 12 trillion yen (calculated based on an exchange rate of 125 yen to the euro: the same applies hereafter) – up as much as 86 percent from 2012, due to growth mainly in the United States and Europe. Figure 1 shows that the area under organic cultivation worldwide totaled 70 million hectares in 2017, up 89 percent from 2012.

Meanwhile, Japan’s organic food market was 185 billion yen in 2017, extremely small
compared with 40 billion euro (5 trillion yen) in the U.S., 10 billion euro (1.3 trillion yen) in Germany and 7.9 billion euro (1 trillion yen) in France. As shown in Figure 2, the area under organic cultivation in Japan totaled 23,000 hectares in fiscal 2017, up 15 percent from fiscal 2012, but it only occupies 0.5 percent of the total area of farmlands.…Link reading

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