Oregon is Japan's most important agricultural import customer, with sales from the state's farmers to the Asian nation up near 30% between 2010 and 2011.
That observation from Satoru Sunagawa, Oregon Japan representative in Tokyo, indicates what he calls "growing demand for U.S. food products" among the Japanese.
Discussing the Japan market during a Western United States Agricultural Trade Association seminar in Portland, Ore., called "Explore Exporting – The World is Waiting," Sunagawa urged western farmers and ag businesses to probe new Japanese food demands, such as a growing demand for health-related products.
Japan's food demand via exports is driving a strong marketplace for Oregon products, says Sunagawa, with these increases in purchases between 2010 and 2011:
n Cereals, up 30%
n Oilseeds, up 35%
n Fresh vegetables, up 32%
n Prepared vegetables and fruits, up 45%
n Dairy, up 53%
Much of the increase developed following the earthquake and tsunami last year, which is responsible in part for an overall 12.4% increase for imported products, he says.
Japan purchased more than $800 million in farm products from Oregon last year, he reports, and remains a growing market with special interests in organic foods. "The Japanese are willing to pay more for quality products," says Sunagawa.
Korea is another "dynamic market" for western exports, says Jinwon Kim, Korea representative for Oregon trade in Seoul. "Affluence is on the increase in Korea, making this one of the fastest-growing export markets," he notes.
His advice to farm product exporters wanting to make an impression on Korean buyers includes the following tips:
n Attend trade shows
n Make sure your agents speak the Korean language.
n Exude the charm of being a reliable business partner.
n Learn and practice the etiquette of the Korean buyer.
n If dining with Korean businessmen, let them be the first to bring up shop talk.
China, looming as the soon-to-become-No. 1 ag customer of the U.S. farm export market, is a nation of limited agriculture that depends heavily on imports, says Paul Swenson, Oregon's China trade office director in Shanghai. New demand from China is expected to increase substantially over the next few years, he notes.
In Europe, opportunities are growing in the prepared dishes sector, says John Worthington, a partner with IBT which represents Oregon trade in Paris. "Customers in Europe like to be considered as European Union companies rather than entities on single nations like Germany or France," he says.
Organic demand is also rising in Europe, he reports, which has been enjoying double-digit growth since 2000.
The representatives addressing the WUSATA conference may have represented Oregon, but many other western states have trade agents abroad which are on the job to help agricultural businesses probe for new markets and advance their sales abroad.
A new emphasis on farm exports is linked to a growing world population, which triggers a demand not only for developing nation imports, but for value added products to developed countries where an increasingly affluent population is demanding more convenience and quality in their imported farm products.
Speakers at the seminar say that agriculture is poised for substantial growth in export markets, and that those not involved in international trade should seriously consider taking steps to enter markets as soon as possible.
WUSATA is a USDA office which stands ready to help the farm industry open new foreign markets. For information, call (360) 693-3373 or go online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on ag trade, see the July issue of Western Farmer-Stockman.