If Taka Yamaguchi has his way, athletes competing in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will be eating organic—an ambitious plan that more than 100 of Japan's top grocery retailers, food importers and distributors learned about at a recent Organic Trade Association (OTA) sponsored seminar in Japan.
Yamaguchi, executive officer of Organic Japan, was part of a roster of agricultural, organic and food industry experts and policy officials taking part in two capacity-filled OTA programs that brought industry and government leaders together in Tokyo and Osaka to learn about the range and quality of U.S. organic products, get up to speed on a bilateral trade deal that will help feed Japan's growing appetite for organic, and sample organic treats of grilled cheese sandwiches, vegetable burritos, ginger lemonade and more.
With a grant for $784,902 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Market Access Program (MAP) to promote U.S. organic products abroad in 2015, OTA is gearing up a far-reaching strategy for next year that will include more organic promotional and education programs in Japan and around the globe.
OTA will be showcasing the American organic brand in the largest food shows in the world, conducting international seminars on organic regulatory issues, hosting trade missions to connect foreign buyers and domestic suppliers, helping retailers in the world's biggest markets sell the value of organic, and continuing to assist U.S. organic exporters with OTA's online U.S. Organic Export Directory and its Global Organic Trade Guide.
"Exports are increasingly important to U.S. producers and handlers. The organic industry is invested in building the relationships and U.S. organic brand awareness required for long-term export growth," said Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of OTA. "The industry is poised to fully utilize the much-welcomed grant assistance from USDA provided through its Market Access Program."
A recent OTA survey of the U.S. organic industry shows a growing number of organic stakeholders involved in the export market—just over 60 percent of respondents surveyed last year said they export all or some of their organic products with an additional 20 percent reporting that they plan to get into the international arena. Many of today's organic exporters are new to the export business, with some 50 percent selling their products on the global stage for five years or less, and almost 20 percent just two years or less.
Demand for organic in the United States has been booming, with organic sales in 2013 hitting a new record of $35.1 billion. Demand for organic around the world has been exploding as well, and U.S. organic exports in 2013 reached a new high of $537 million, up more than 20 percent from the previous year.
"Healthy growth in organic demand is occurring in all regions, from Japan, South Korea and China, to Canada and the European Union and the Middle East," said Monique Marez, OTA's senior international trade manager. "It is our goal to help organic producers and distributors explore and connect with these developing and often untapped markets and educate consumers everywhere about the benefits of organic."
For more information, visit www.ota.com.