The ban on imports of Japanese wagyu, imposed after an outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease in Japan in 2001, was lifted by the Taiwan government last September (2017).
While America- and Australia-raised wagyu has sold in the island during the ban, consumer interest in Japanese wagyu has encouraged Japan’s producers, who are struggling with a stagnant domestic market.
Japan’s beef exports were worth JP¥19.2 billion (US$178.7m) in 2017, a 41% rise on 2016, according to the ministry of agriculture, and were expected to grow further as markets such as Taiwan open up.
In an effort to bolster exports of Japan’s agricultural, forestry and fishery products, The Japan Food Product Overseas Promotion Center (JFOODO), established by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), began promoting wagyu beef in Taiwan this month (February 2018). It follows Japan’s food exports fair in Chiba, near Tokyo, in October (called Japan’s Food), where Taiwanese contacts showed particular interest in wagyu.
Yoko Shuto, spokesperson for JFOODO, told GlobalMeatNews that the country was chosen as its primary market for wagyu promotion because Taiwanese people “trust the Japan brand and have a high level of understanding about Japanese culture”. Shuto added that Taiwan’s ‘nabe’ culture of eating a variety of proteins and vegetables in one pot shared at the table meant “the infrastructure needed to promote sliced beef is already established”.
Work underway included: a website promoting recipes for Japan’s shabu-shabu hot pot, using thin slices of wagyu and Chinese-style one-pot dishes that require thin cuts; advertising via newspapers, magazines and television; tasting events; and tie-ups with cooking schools.
In 2017 Japan’s wagyu exports to Taiwan were 211 tonnes, valued at JP¥1.4bn (US$13m) according to JFOODO, but meat producers were confident of growth.
Itoham Foods, Japan’s biggest exporter of wagyu, has predicted its shipments to Taiwan will triple in the next fiscal year (starting April 2018), due to demand and the efforts of the government.
A report from the company noted that it expected to export 60 tonnes of wagyu to Taiwan in the upcoming fiscal year, making the country its second-largest market in the world after Hong Kong, to which it planned to ship 360 tonnes.
Taiwan has potential, according to one Japanese meat producer (requesting anonymity), who said that Taiwanese consumers were interested in a greater range of wagyu cuts, such as round, compared to consumers globally, most of whom chose solely loin cuts.