TOKYO, Sept. 2 – Exports of packed cooked rice between January and July totaled 365 million yen, 681 tons in terms of volume, jumping 23 percent from the same period last year, according to the Finance Ministry’s trade statistics.
The exports rose as more people eat at home amid the COIVD-19 pandemic and the good taste and convenience of packed rice have been increasingly recognized abroad.
Exports of packed rice in July alone rose 40 percent to 65 million yen, backed by huge increases from a year before of shipments to major destinations including the United States, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
An official of Wooke Co., Ltd., a packed cooked rice manufacturer in Nyuzen, Toyama Prefecture, explained the increasing popularity of its products in Hong Kong, saying: “As there was a shortage of milled rice at stores due to the COVID-19 outbreak, people started buying packed cooked rice and continued to purchase it, realizing how convenient and good tasting it is.”
Rice product makers expect the demand to expand further, as more people appreciate the high quality of Japanese rice.
With the expected increase in overseas demand, the village of Ogata in Akita Prefecture, a major rice producing region, is moving to boost production of packed cooked rice products by constructing a new factory.
Japan Rice and Rice Industry Export Promotion Association is eagerly promoting the product in overseas markets, especially among wealthy people and child rearing families in China, by offering recipes for packed rice and emphasizing the benefits of the long-shelf-life and easy-to-prepare product.
Meanwhile, a recent increase in rice exports is slowing down. According to the agriculture ministry, exports of rice for commercial use in July rose 3 percent from the previous year to 400 million yen. The exports have been showing year-on-year rise of 20 to 50 percent between March and May, but the growth has slowed since June.
An official of a major rice wholesaler said an increase in exports dropped in July because people stocked up rice at home and bought less.
The amount of exports of farm produce and food items in total reached 75.6 billion yen in July alone, up 2 percent from a year before, posting the first increase in two months. The exports totaled 487.6 billion yen between January and July, down 7 percent from the same period last year.