Eliminating costs and paperwork barriers, the U.S. and Japan announced an an agreement that government and industry leaders said will help organic trade increase between the two countries.
Beginning Jan. 1, organic products certified in Japan or in the U.S. may be sold as organic in either country, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“This partnership reflects the strength of the USDA organic standards, allowing American organic farmers, ranchers, and businesses to access Asia’s largest organic market,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the release. “It is a win for the American economy and sets the foundation for additional organic agricultural trade agreements in Asia.”
U.S. exports of organic fresh produce to Japan were led in 2012 by cauliflower, which registered sales of nearly $16 million. Exports of U.S. organic broccoli, grapes, strawberries and grapefruit all totaled more than $1 million each, and other organic fresh produce items shipped to Japan with significant sales include lemons, blueberries, oranges, peppers, tomatoes and lettuce.
The agreement, finalized Sept. 26, streamlines access to the growing Japanese organic market for U.S. farmers and processors, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said in the release. Before the agreement, organic farmers and businesses hoping to sell in either country had to obtain separate certifications to meet each country’s organic standards, according to the release. For the first time, certified organic farmers and businesses in the U.S. now don’t have to prove that they didn’t use a specific substance or production method to sell to the Japanese organic market, according to the release.
Total U.S. annual organic sales to Japan are close to $80 million, and the new agreement may help triple U.S. organic sales to Japan over the next decade, according to a USDA official cited by The Washington Post.
“This monumental agreement will further create jobs in the already growing U.S. organic sector, spark additional market growth, and be mutually beneficial to producers both in the United States and Japan and to consumers who choose organic products,” Laura Batcha, executive vice president of the Organic Trade Association, said in a news release.
More details on the agreement can be found online.