Fukushima-produced alcohol beverage exports hit record high in FY2017

21 October 2018

Exports of alcoholic beverages such as sake rice wine and liqueur produced in Fukushima Prefecture totaled about 296 kiloliters in fiscal 2017 through March this year, marking a record annual high and reaching 3.2 times the level of fiscal 2012 when the Fukushima Trade Promotion Council began collecting such data. The fiscal 2017 total represented a 16.0 percent increase from the previous year and was worth 363.37 million yen.

The prefectural government and other parties concerned are set to give greater priority to the dissemination of information on the safety and attractiveness of local products, mainly alcoholic beverages, in an effort to dispel the reputational damage stemming from the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Sake accounted for 179 kiloliters of the fiscal 2017 export volume, up 11.9 percent, and for 204.69 million yen of the total value. Other beverages, including whiskey, ume-shu plum liqueur and shochu distilled spirit, constituted 117 kiloliters worth 158.68 million yen, with the quantity showing a 23.0 percent surge.

The United States was the largest export market, taking in 118 kiloliters (sake accounting for 77 kiloliters and other beverages 41 kiloliters) for 40.0 percent of the total, followed by France with 53 kiloliters (sake 2 kiloliters and others 51 kiloliters) for 18.1 percent, and South Korea with 39 kiloliters (all sake) for 13.2 percent.

Of the total sake exports, 43.1 percent went to the United States. The prefecture plans to open a shop in New York for testing sales of its sake, possibly within this fiscal year, riding on the crest of booming Japanese cuisine in that country. It will also post on YouTube three videos with English subtitles promoting local sake to assist Fukushima producers in their export drive.

An export strategy for prefectural products laid down by the local government lists 500 kiloliters of sake worth 700 million yen as export targets to be achieved by fiscal 2020. It intends to beef up sales promotion in five priority markets besides the United States, including Hong Kong where many Japanese restaurants exist, and France where sake is becoming popular.

But only 24 out of 58 member producers of the Fukushima Prefecture Sake Brewers Cooperative covered by the trade council’s survey had export track records. It is a challenging issue to increase the number of breweries involved in exports to accomplish the targets.

Commenting on the survey results, cooperative chairman Yoshihiro Ariga hailed the sharp export growth as "the outcome of efforts by each member brewery to improve taste." Ariga, who heads Ariga Jozo brewery in the city of Shirakawa, pointed out that "exports require a lot of expense and labor" in stressing the need to boost assistance for small breweries.

According to Finance Ministry trade statistics, domestic breweries exported a record total of 23,482 kiloliters of sake in 2017, reaching an annual high for the eighth straight year.

(Translated by Kyodo News)