“Responding to COVID-19” ranked the top keyword for 2021 among farm produce sellers

TOKYO, Jan. 5 – “Responding to COVID-19″ was ranked top in the list of sales keywords for 2021 among distributors of farm produce, followed by “online transactions and delivery services,” according to a survey conducted by The Japan Agricultural News.

Household consumption is likely to remain strong as many people stay home, and there are also moves to shift purchases from imported products to domestically produced items.

The annual survey, 14th of the kind, was conducted on six areas – vegetables, fruits, rice, meat, dairy products and flowers – by sending a questionnaire in mid-November last year to salespeople at supermarkets, cooperatives, specialized retailers, restaurants and wholesalers.

Out of 140 respondents, 48 percent – the largest percentage – chose “responding to COVID-19,” a keyword newly added to the survey in which multiple choices were allowed.

“We can’t expect an economic recovery without COVID-19 settling down,” a flower wholesaler in the Kansai region said. “As people stay home, the trend of increasing household consumption will continue in the future,” said an official of a cooperative in western Japan.

“Online transactions and delivery services” came second with 47 percent, rising sharply from 11th in the previous survey. An official of a major food manufacturer said more companies are entering the sector, in response to consumers’ increasing preference for simpler buying process as they refrain from going out or having contact with others.

“Food safety” was ranked third, the same as last year, and “health and functional food” came sixth. “People’s awareness for both (food safety and health) is rising due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” an official of a cooperative in the Kanto region said.

“Price and supply stability” also came third and “climate” was ranked sixth, reflecting concerns over recent price instability brought about by fluctuating supplies due to natural disasters.

“Affordability and saving-oriented behavior” also came sixth, moving up four spots. “Needs for affordable items are increasing because of the COVID-19 driven recession,” said an official of a major rice wholesaler.

Meanwhile, “easy and time-saving” was ranked 10th, indicating a continuing struggle between wishes to eat prepared food, although expensive, and wishes to save money.

“Preference for domestic products” came 11th, rising largely from 16th a year before. “People’s awareness for improved food self-sufficiency will rise amid the unstable international situation,” an official of a dairy manufacturer explained, while an official of a major meat wholesaler said, “Moves toward local production for local consumption will become more active.”

Respondents had a more pessimistic outlook about the Japanese economy. The largest percentage of respondents, 51 percent, said the economy will “worsen slightly,” up 13 percentage points from the previous year. Two-thirds of the respondents said the economy will either worsen slightly or considerably.

Some hope for the economy to recover helped by the development of COVID-19 vaccines and the Tokyo Olympics, but there is stronger wariness among them that it will take time for the pandemic to settle down.

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