Under Secretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, Ted McKinney led a trip last week to help foster a better trade relationship with Japan. The trade mission was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and had approximately 100 participants, making the effort the largest in USDA history. The goal of the trip was to engage new contacts and hopefully garner additional customers for U.S. agricultural products in Japan’s two largest cities, Tokyo and Osaka.
“Japan is already a top market for U.S. farm and food products, but there are many new opportunities still waiting to be tapped there,” McKinney previously said in a statement. “Japan is an import-dependent economy and its 130 million consumers have a real affinity for U.S. food products because of their quality, affordability, and safety.”
Japan is currently the fourth largest market for American agricultural products, with nearly $12 billion worth of shipments being exported in 2017. While the more lucrative commodities exported to Japan were beef and pork products, the U.S. rice industry has a significant interest in cultivating a better trade relationship with Japan.
USA Rice Asia Promotion Programs Director Jim Guinn joined the group in Japan and spoke with several trade associations and various rice importers. While opinions differ as to what domestic rice production will look like in Japan over the next ten years, market data indicates that rice importers and foodservice distributors have a significant interest in American rice.
Japan is the second largest single export market for U.S. milled rice at more than 661 million pounds, with a value of nearly $200 million. However, there is growing pressure coming from Australia having short grain rice that is becoming more competitive in price compared to Calrose medium grain rice coming from the U.S.
“There are two types of foodservice end users currently using imported U.S. rice,” said Guinn. “Those who decide to purchase based solely on the lower price of imported rice and another group who appreciate the versatility and end use characteristics of U.S. medium grain. Indications are the larger and growing segment is the latter group.”