Japan's food exports hit record high amid slumping business with China

Japan's exports of agricultural, forestry and fisheries products and other food items last year totaled a record of more than 1.45 trillion yen, or about 9.84 billion dollars.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said on Tuesday that the figure was up 2.9 percent from the previous year.

By country and territory, exports to South Korea surged about 14 percent, followed by Hong Kong at more than 13 percent, and the United States at over 6 percent.

The ministry attributed the increase to recovering demand in the restaurant industry, which had been hard hit during the coronavirus pandemic, and the weaker yen against the dollar.

Although China remains the largest overseas market for such products, exports to the country plunged more than 14 percent, or about 276 million dollars, from 2022.

The Chinese government suspended imports of Japanese marine products in August last year to protest the release of treated and diluted water into the sea from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Before releasing the treated water, the operator of the power plant dilutes it to reduce radioactive tritium levels to about one-seventh of the World Health Organization's guidance level for drinking water.

By product, exports of scallops dropped more than 24 percent, or about 151 million dollars, from the year before. China used to be a major importer of scallops.

The Japanese government aims to increase exports of food products to 2 trillion yen, or over 13.5 billion dollars, by 2025.

Since China continues to suspend imports of Japanese fishery products, the Japanese government needs to consider ways to diversify overseas markets.