National | Regional Voices: Fukushima

Exports of Fukushima-brand alcohol hit record in fiscal 2017

Fukushima Minpo

Exports of sake, liquor and other alcoholic beverages produced in Fukushima Prefecture reached a record high of about 296,000 liters in fiscal 2017, or 3.2 times that of fiscal 2012, when the Fukushima Trade Promotion Council, in charge of supporting business activities among local companies and municipalities, began monitoring the figures.

The total value of alcohol exports was ¥363.37 million, up 16 percent from the year before.

The Fukushima Prefectural Government plans to further promote the safety and attraction of local alcohol, aiming to rebuild its reputation after the nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.

In fiscal 2017, the amount of sake exported rose 11.9 percent from a year earlier to 179,000 liters, worth ¥204.69 million. Other alcohol, including whiskey, plum wine, and shōchū (spirits) jumped 23 percent to 117,000 liters, worth ¥158.68 million.

The United States imported 118,000 liters — 77,000 liters of sake and 41,000 liters of other alcohol, accounting for 40 percent of the prefecture’s alcohol export. France imported 53,000 liters — 2,000 liters of sake and 51,000 liters of other alcohol — accounting for 18.1 percent. South Korea imported 39,000 liters of sake, accounting for 13.2 percent.

Out of all the sake produced in Fukushima, 43.1 percent was exported to the U.S. To take advantage of the trend and the popularity of Japanese cuisine in America, the prefecture will launch an antenna shop in New York to sell Fukushima-brand sake by the end of March.

The prefecture will also release about three PR videos with English subtitles on YouTube to promote local sake to English-speaking consumers.

Fukushima aims to increase its alcohol exports to 500,000 liters, worth ¥700 million, by the end of fiscal 2020. It also plans to reinforce sales by focusing on five countries and regions including the U.S., France, where sake is becoming increasingly popular, and Hong Kong, where there are a number of Japanese restaurants.

However, out of the 58 breweries in the Fukushima Prefecture Sake Brewers Cooperative, only 24 had exported their sake abroad. To achieve the prefecture’s goal, the next thing they will need to do is to increase the number of sake exporters.

“It was the result of each maker’s efforts to improve the taste,” Yoshihiro Ariga, chairman of the cooperative, said in referring to the record exports in fiscal 2017.

But he also said further support will be needed.

“It costs a huge amount of money and effort to export sake,” Ariga said, urging municipalities to provide further assistance to small breweries.

According to the Finance Ministry, 23,482,000 liters of sake were exported in 2017, breaking the record for an eighth consecutive year.

This section features topics and issues from Fukushima covered by the Fukushima Minpo, the largest newspaper in Fukushima Prefecture. The original article was published on Oct. 21.

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