The Diet passed a bill Wednesday to promote the country’s agricultural exports through the creation of a single body that will handle farm export procedures and talks with trade partners over easing import restrictions.
Under the new law, which takes effect April 1, the body will handle the tasks that have in the past been dealt with by different government ministries and agencies, as Japan aims to cut down export processing times.
The body, to be set up within the farm ministry and headed by the farm minister, will manage food safety inspections and hold talks aimed at lifting import restrictions placed by other countries on some farm products following the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
Earlier this month, the European Union said it will ease its restrictions on Japanese food imports imposed following the 2011 crisis, possibly by the end of this year.
Other members of the body include the internal affairs minister, the foreign minister and the health minister.
The body will create a road map to keep track of its progress in facilitating exports through such measures as creating more beef processing facilities compatible with U.S. and European import standards.
Examinations have been conducted by the health ministry and prefectural governments based on international food safety management standards certified under the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system.
But the new law will enable private organizations to perform food safety inspections if they meet certain criteria.
A new clause will also be added to allow ministers and prefectural governors to issue export certifications required by other countries, such as sanitary certificates and proof of origin.
In 2018, Japan’s agricultural exports amounted to a record ¥906.8 billion ($8.35 billion), with Hong Kong being the largest buyer of Japanese farm produce, followed by China and the United States. Japan aims to expand the exports to ¥1 trillion this year.