Japanese cheese imports reach record levels

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

By Charlie Reeve

Cheese imports into Japan have been increasing year-on-year since 2014 as consumption growth has outstripped domestic production. In the first 9 months of 2019, Japanese imports were up 9% year-on-year, reaching 229,200 tonnes.

As Japan has high import tariffs on cheese, imports are dominated by those regions who have negotiated preferential access. As such, the EU-28, Australia, New Zealand and the United States account for 98% of Japan’s total cheese imports.

The EU-28 has seen its market share grow from 33% to 35% between 2017 and 2019. This gain has mostly been at the expense of Australia, whose share of imports has dropped from 31% to 28% over the same period, likely as a result of the lack of raw milk for processing.

The new EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, which entered into force earlier this year, will have helped spur this growth. The deal provides for a TRQ of 20,000 tonnes for soft and processed cheeses exported from the EU-28 in addition to reduced tariffs on hard cheeses.

The UK also appears to have benefitted from improved access. While its share of imports remains below 1%, volumes sent to Japan have more than doubled between 2017 and 2019, reaching a cumulative total so far this year of 320 tonnes.

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