Exports of Fukushima-brewed “sake” up 30% in FY2016, double FY2012 level

Exports of “sake” rice wine brewed in Fukushima Prefecture totaled about 160 kiloliters in fiscal 2016 ended last March, almost double the level in fiscal 2012 when the Fukushima Trade Promotion Council began collecting such data. Compared with fiscal 2015, the total represented an increase of some 30%. In value, the fiscal 2016 exports exceeded 200 million yen for the first time. Prefectural government officials and other parties concerned attributed the outcome to activities aimed at dispelling harmful rumors stemming from the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. Capitalizing on the growing popularity of Japanese cuisine worldwide, the officials said they plan to ramp up efforts to send out information overseas. The council, comprising the local government as well as prefectural economic and agricultural organizations, among others, tallied the figures by surveying exports by 58 brewers belonging to the Fukushima Prefecture Sake Brewers Cooperative. The fiscal 2016 export volume was 37.7 kl more than the previous year. The export value stood at 216.80 million yen, up 58.38 million yen. The United States topped the list of export destinations with 76.9 kl, accounting for 48% of the total, followed by Canada with 10.6 kl (7%) and Hong Kong with 9.4 kl (6%). The exports to the two North American countries doubled from five years before. Exports to Europe’s Britain and France and to Southeast Asia’s Singapore and Thailand showed two- to four-fold rises. Brands of newly brewed sake from Fukushima won more gold prizes than from any other prefecture in the Annual Japan Sake Awards for the fifth straight year in 2017 while some Fukushima brands were awarded prizes in the sake segment of the International Wine Challenge, a global wine competition. These developments appear to have contributed to improving the reputation abroad of Fukushima-brewed sake, according to the Fukushima prefectural government’s section in charge of strategy for promoting prefectural products, which assumes the role of a secretariat for the council. Also believed to have been effective are events held in foreign countries by the prefecture to help dissipate unfounded rumors. With locally brewed sake attracting attention year after year, the Fukushima government places the alcoholic beverage as a “driving force” in overcoming unfavorable rumors and, based on that position, is set to draw up a new strategy within the current fiscal year aiming to step up exports of prefectural products. Given the Economic Partnership Agreement between Japan and the European Union set to take effect soon, the prefecture intends to beef up sales promotion efforts in the EU’s member countries. (Translated by Kyodo News)