Fukushima picks priority export markets for 5 product categories to boost overseas sales

The Fukushima prefectural government has designated "priority areas" overseas to step up exports of products in five key categories, including farm produce, starting in fiscal 2018. The foreign market selection is based on analyses of export results, import restrictions, the extent of harmful rumors and purchasing power in the wake of the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The export markets include Southeast Asian countries for rice, fruit and other agricultural products, and the United States, Hong Kong and Taiwan for alcoholic beverages such as "sake" rice wine. The prefecture is set to send out product information matching relevant countries and regions, and set up production and distribution systems dedicated to exports, among other measures, in cooperation with central government ministries and agencies as well as other related bodies. The local government adopted the export strategy for prefectural products on March 28 at a meeting held at Sugitsuma Kaikan in Fukushima city. The five product categories are (1) agricultural produce, (2) processed food, (3) alcoholic beverages, (4) seafood and (5) craftwork. Of the priority areas, five Southeast Asian countries have been picked for farm produce as these nations have few import curbs on such products and they were the first overseas markets since the disaster to accept rice and peaches from Fukushima. The United States, Hong Kong, Britain and France are among markets selected for alcoholic beverages as sake and whisky exports to them are growing. For seafood, Southeast Asia is listed in view of rapidly increasing travelers from the region to Japan and mushrooming Japanese restaurants there. The prefectural government will look into the market environment of each priority country and sound out local importers about their interest in Fukushima products, conveying such information to Japanese companies, farmers and other parties interested in exporting their products. It will also introduce the prefecture's product screening system in respective local languages through its website and other channels in an effort to publicize the safety and attractiveness of Fukushima products. The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) will also extend a helping hand, cooperating in securing local importers that accept products shipped from Fukushima and other parties concerned, and dispatching lecturers to export seminars to be hosted by the Fukushima government in the prefecture and other relevant events, among other means of assistance. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will work on relevant foreign governments to ease import restrictions while offering Fukushima information on each country’s quarantine system, economic conditions and other aspects. The prefecture will assist prospective exporters in establishing export-oriented production and distribution systems matching each country’s legal system and tastes, as well as the period of shipment. The prefectural government hopes that increased exports will lead to the elimination of products still on a list of items subject to import restraints and the exemption of Fukushima from import regulations still imposed by some countries and regions. The export strategy calls for the total export value of prefectural products to be tripled to 1.2 billion yen from fiscal 2016 in the three-year period of fiscal 2018-2020. A sum of about 100 million yen has been set aside in the initial prefectural budget for fiscal 2018 to finance the export-promoting measures intended to realize the target. Consultative frameworks will be put into shape in and after April to put together relevant concerns according to the product categories as well as working out specific plans and managing progress in the implementation of export-promoting measures. (Translated by Kyodo News)