Andalusian Producers Seek Deeper Trade Ties with Japan

Olive oil consumption has risen steadily in the world’s third-largest economy over the past 30 years, and Andalusian producers are seeking to grow their market share.
Nara, Japan
By Daniel Dawson
Aug. 10, 2023 15:13 UTC

Some of the world’s largest olive oil pro­duc­ers and retail­ers joined a group of Andalusian agribusi­nesses and agri­cul­tural asso­ci­a­tions on their recent trade mis­sion to Japan.

DCOOP and Jaéncoop, two of the world’s largest pro­duc­ers, bot­tlers and retail­ers of olive oil, joined Cooperativas Agro-Alimentarias, Spain’s main agri­cul­tural union, and sev­eral other promi­nent agribusi­nesses on an offi­cial tour to strengthen com­mer­cial ties and learn more about the Japanese social econ­omy and its pro­duc­tion sys­tem.

Japan is the world’s third-largest econ­omy and an impor­tant trade part­ner for Spain. According to data from the Observatory of Economic Complexity, Japan was Spain’s six­teenth-largest export part­ner in 2021, the last year for which data are avail­able.

See Also:Tracking the Rise of Olive Oil in Japan

Trade mis­sions pur­sue two objec­tives: to strengthen the posi­tion of those coop­er­a­tives that already have busi­nesses in the vis­ited coun­try and to open a new mar­ket for those that are explor­ing new des­ti­na­tions,” said Jaime Martínez-Conradi, the man­ag­ing direc­tor of the Governing Council of Agri-food Cooperatives of Andalusia, which coor­di­nated the visit.

Over the past three decades, olive oil con­sump­tion in the world’s eleventh most pop­u­lous coun­try has steadily risen from 4,000 tons in the 1990/91 crop year to 57,000 tons in 2021/22. However, annual olive oil pro­duc­tion in Japan hov­ers around 600 tons.

As a result, trade offi­cials in Spain believe there is plenty of poten­tial for Spanish olive oil to increase its foot­print in Japan over the long term.

According to a 2022 report from the Spanish Institute of Foreign Trade (ICEX), per capita con­sump­tion in Japan remains at 0.4 liters per annum, well below the aver­age for Mediterranean coun­tries. The International Olive Council esti­mates that 64 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion con­sumes olive oil.

Spain is already the sin­gle largest source of Japanese olive oil imports. Data from Japan’s finance min­istry show that the coun­try imported 25,587 tons of olive oil in all of its frac­tions in the first half of 2023, with 55 per­cent of those imports com­ing from Spain.

Meanwhile, data from Spain’s trade min­istry show that pro­duc­ers in Andalusia exported 4,469 tons of olive oil in all of its frac­tions to Japan in the first five months of 2023.

A report from Extenda, the Andalusian government’s office of exports and for­eign invest­ment, found that olive oil makes up more than half of the autonomous community’s annual agri­cul­tural exports to Japan, val­ued at about €98 mil­lion.

The olive oil mar­ket in Japan is very impor­tant for Spanish com­pa­nies in the sec­tor,” Mikel Forcadell Fernández wrote in the ICEX study.

His point was under­scored by the sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence of Spanish olive oil pro­duc­ers at a sep­a­rate food and bev­er­age trade event in Tokyo. Out of 86 Spanish atten­dees, there were 12 Andalusian olive oil pro­duc­ers and the Spanish Interprofessional Olive Oil Association.

However, sim­ply show­ing up at trade events and host­ing olive oil tast­ings with local som­me­liers is only one part of a suc­cess­ful export strat­egy, ICEX found.

To max­i­mize the chances of suc­cess when pen­e­trat­ing or expand­ing into Japan, it is nec­es­sary to under­stand the par­tic­u­lar char­ac­ter­is­tics of Japanese con­sumers and soci­ety as a whole,” Forcadell wrote.

The ICEX study made sev­eral rec­om­men­da­tions to Spanish olive oil pro­duc­ers attempt­ing to enter the Japanese mar­ket.

These included pub­lish­ing infor­ma­tion about olive oil’s health ben­e­fits on com­pany web­sites in English or Japanese, adver­tis­ing the organolep­tic qual­i­ties of extra vir­gin olive oil as the rea­son for high prices, edu­cat­ing importers and dis­trib­u­tors about olive oil to increase their knowl­edge and the chances they pass this on to per­spec­tive retail­ers and pack­ag­ing olive oil in appro­pri­ate sizes and cul­tur­ally aes­thetic designs to catch the eye of Japanese con­sumers on crowded super­mar­ket shelves.

Oro del Desierto, an award-win­ning pro­ducer from Almería, Andalusia, has exported olive oil to Japan since 2009. The com­pany empha­sized the need to focus on qual­ity to suc­ceed in the Japanese mar­ket.

Japan is a coun­try with a lot of poten­tial for growth in extra vir­gin olive oil con­sump­tion; they have pur­chas­ing power and a cul­ture focused on con­sum­ing qual­ity,” the com­pany wrote in a blog post. This fac­tor is much more impor­tant and val­ued by the con­sumer than in most exist­ing mar­kets.”


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