Bord Bia on a mission to increase our slice of Japanese cheese market
IRISH firms are hoping to take a slice of the €3bn Japanese cheese market as they seek a solution to the post-Brexit cheddar challenge.
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, who is leading a trade mission of 40 Irish firms to Japan and South Korea, said he believed exports to Japan could form part of the solution for the Brexit challenge for cheddar.
He said Ireland exported €8.9m of cheddar in 2016 to Japan where imports so far this year had grown to €15.1m.
“We believe this is a particularly important opportunity in Japan and Korea,” said Minister Creed. “Fifty five pc of the world population is expected to live in the south-east Asian region by 2050. There are 123 million people in Japan and 50-odd million in Korea so they are significant markets in themselves.”
Currently 1.2 billion litres of Irish farmers’ milk is dedicated to the production of cheddar for the UK market alone, with little appetite for that type of cheese in other European countries.
Conor Mulvihill from Dairy Industry Ireland warned it would take a “concerted long-term effort” and commitment to the highly developed markets such as Japan and South Korea to take advantage of the deal.
Currently Ireland lies ninth in the league table of cheese exporters to Japan with 4,110t exported in 2016, which represented a 43pc increase on 2015.
Mr Mulvihill said it was clear there was potential there as Australia was exporting 86,000t and New Zealand 61,000t to Japan.
Bord Bia’s Tara McCarthy said there was extensive research underway to give an insight into the market and the various opportunities for Irish firms.
“The region is an area where we are putting in significant concentration in terms of sales,” said Minister Creed. “We see significant market opportunity — increasing numbers of middle class, disposable income, westernised dietary habits. So significant opportunities for us.”
Mr Creed also pointed to the benefits of the recent trade agreements between the European Union and Japan.
“We see progressively increasing opportunities in Japan over a 15-year period, there are going to be substantial reductions in tariffs on beef exports to Japan and that is important for us. Japan is the third biggest economy in the world and Korea is the 10th biggest,” he said.