Kagoshima overtakes Shizuoka in green tea output for Japan’s top spot – News 24-7 Live News 24-7 Live
Kagoshima overtakes Shizuoka in green tea output for Japan’s top spot

Kagoshima overtakes Shizuoka in green tea output for Japan’s top spot

Kagoshima has overtaken Shizuoka in output equivalent to green tea sales, gaining the top spot in Japan, with differences in cultivation methods between the two prefectures and changes in consumer tastes behind the shift.

Kagoshima had output equivalent to 25.2 billion yen worth of green tea leaves sales in 2019, compared to Shizuoka’s 25.1 billion yen, according to data released in March by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. Shizuoka thus lost the position as Japan’s leader in tea output it had held since 1967 when data was first compiled.

Output in Shizuoka has decreased more than 40 percent over the past decade, while Kagoshima’s has remained constant.

As Kagoshima has extensive areas of flat land as compared to the rest of Japan, local tea farmers have promoted large-scale cultivation and capitalized on the growing demand for bottled tea. In contrast, Shizuoka has continued to focus on high-grade tea.

Given the persistent contraction of the domestic market, however, both prefectures are stepping up efforts to increase exports.

At Kagoshima Horiguchi Seicha Co in the city of Shibushi, one of the biggest tea producers in the southwestern prefecture, large unmanned, sensor-controlled tea-picking machines slowly move through the approximately 300-hectare farm harvesting leaves each April.

“Smart farming using advanced technology has given us leeway to promote other operations,” said Daisuke Horiguchi, 38, vice president of the company.

More than 97 percent of tea farms in Kagoshima have adopted large-scale machinery, compared to the national average of less than 60 percent. Technology-streamlined work processes enable farmers to harvest the second and third tea crops to ensure profitability.

Tea farms are often on steep hillsides in Shizuoka, making it difficult for growers to introduce large machinery. “Efforts to streamline operations and consolidate farmland haven’t gone our way,” said an official in the tea promotion division of the Shizuoka prefectural government.

Changes in how green tea is consumed have also helped Kagoshima usurp Shizuoka as the biggest producer in Japan.

Spending on tea-based beverages, such as bottled tea, amounted to 7,676 yen per household in 2020, up 34 percent from a decade earlier, while the consumption of loose leaf tea, brewed in teapots, fell 16 percent to 3,817 yen, according to a survey on households by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

Growers in Japan’s central prefecture of Shizuoka prioritize the production of high-priced ichibancha (first tea crop) that is brewed in teapots. But its consumption has been on the decline.

To create new demand for loose leaf tea, a “tea pairing” campaign to promote the drinking of tea with complementary meals is underway in Shizuoka. “We would like to propose new ways of drinking that make the best use of the goodness of Shizuoka tea,” said Norihisa Ito, an executive director at the Chamber of Tea Association of Shizuoka Prefecture.

In the meantime, new business opportunities are emerging for tea farmers in Japan as exports of green tea grew to a record high of 16.2 billion yen in 2020, reflecting an increase in health consciousness, especially among American and European consumers.

In November 2020, Japan, China, and 13 other countries signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade liberalization agreement. China will reduce by stages its import tariff on green tea from the current 15 percent to zero in 10 years after the yet-to-be-determined implementation of RCEP.

In light of the enormous scale of the Chinese market and the increase in affluent consumers there, the Japanese government has adopted a bullish target of boosting green tea exports to the world’s second-largest economy to 8 billion yen by 2025.

“We have entered an age of international competition. At stake is whether tea farmers in Japan can cooperate in enhancing the brand of Japanese tea instead of competing for price cuts or domestic market share,” said Shuichiro Sakamoto, 65, who heads the Kagoshima Tea Producers Association.

News source- Japan Today

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