Business

Japan hopes to double wagyu beef output amid rising overseas demand

Kyodo

The government said Tuesday it hopes to double the country’s output of wagyu beef, known for its tenderness and marbled fat, to 300,000 tons by fiscal 2035 amid rising overseas demand.

Under the goal, which is part of a government program to support farmers and boost agricultural exports, Japan will aim to increase domestic wagyu beef production from about 149,000 tons last year by offering financial incentives to introduce breeding cows.

To expand beef exports, the government will encourage upgrades to meat processing facilities to comply with stricter U.S. and European safety standards.

The government put together the program in the wake of recent trade deals with the United States, other Pacific Rim nations and the European Union.

The trade pact with Washington is set to take effect Jan. 1 while separate accords with 10 other Pacific economies and the European Union entered into force on Dec. 30 last year and Feb. 1 this year, respectively, opening the domestic market to cheap farm imports from those countries.

Wagyu exports to the United States are expected to grow with the increase of a low-tariff quota on Japanese beef under the bilateral trade deal.

In 2018, Japan’s agricultural exports reached ¥906.8 billion ($8.4 billion), hitting an all-time high for the sixth straight year. Hong Kong was the largest buyer of Japanese produce, followed by China and the United States.

“There will be more opportunities for Japan’s safe farm produce to make inroads into overseas markets,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a meeting to adopt the farm strategy.

The program includes measures to bolster the preparedness of farms against typhoons and other natural disasters, as well as expedited pig vaccinations to prevent the spread of classical swine fever.

Japan has struggled to contain the swine fever epidemic, which has forced farmers in a dozen prefectures to cull their pigs since last year.

The strategy also calls for promoting the use of innovative agricultural technology such as crop-dusting drones, particularly in mountainous and disaster-hit areas.

Funding for the measures will be included in the supplementary budget for fiscal 2019 and the initial budget for fiscal 2020.

The government also plans to draw up legislation to protect brand-name agricultural products such as Shine Muscat seedless grapes and sweet Amao strawberries, which were both developed in Japan but have been found being grown in China and South Korea.

The legislation, which the government plans to submit to the Diet next year, will include tougher restrictions on the smuggling of wagyu DNA in fertilized eggs out of the country.

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