How much cheese do we send to Japan?

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

By Kat Jack

Japan has been a small but growing destination for UK cheese exports over the last few years, and has been recently highlighted as part of the UK-Japan free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations. With a post-Brexit deal expected to be soon agreed upon, we’re taking a look at the cheeses that could benefit.

The UK government’s aim for its trade deal with Japan has been to build upon the terms already agreed in the EU-Japan FTA, which entered into force from February 2019. Under the EU deal, tariffs on hard cheeses, such as Cheddar, were to be phased out by 2033. Fresh cheeses, such as Mozzarella, and blue-veined varieties were to have a duty-free quota by the same year. Recent news indicates that the UK is trying to negotiate additional concessions for blue cheeses, such as Stilton, in the UK-Japan deal. 

A growing export destination

The UK exported 434 tonnes of cheese to Japan in 2019, up 90% on 2018. Although this is a tiny share of the 208,000 tonnes of cheese exported in total, the rapid growth of recent years makes it noteworthy. Cheddar and Mozzarella are the two main varieties being exported. Cheddar exports have more than doubled between 2017 and 2019, while Mozzarella exports grew from almost nothing in 2017 to just under 250 tonnes in 2019. Blue cheese exports stayed steadily around 12 tonnes in the same time.

Small volumes, high prices

2019 cheese exports to Japan were worth £2.2m, giving an average price* across all cheese types of £5,150/tonne. In comparison, the average price of UK cheese exports overall was £3,400. This suggests that the Japanese market is looking for premium products. Blue cheese varieties fetched the highest price of the three at £8,280/tonne. However, their small volumes meant blue cheese exports to Japan were still only worth £102k total in 2019. If a favourable deal can be struck, we may see this grow in the future.

*All average prices stated have been estimated by dividing trade value by trade volume

Image of staff member Katherine Jack

Katherine Jack

Analyst - Dairy

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