The 16-year ban was put in place following outbreaks of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease in Japan in 2001, but was lifted in September 2017. According to Japanese Government export data, Taiwan overtook former leading importer, Hong Kong, in fiscal 2017 (year-end March 2018).
About 95% of all beef consumed in Taiwan is imported, but before the ban, in 2000, Japan exported a mere four tonnes of its beef to the island, according to Taiwanese government data. In the intervening years, economic, cultural and political factors have boosted demand for beef in Taiwan, creating this new sales opportunity for Japanese exporters.
The International Trade Administration of the United States – the USA is also a major exporter of beef to Taiwan – attributes growth in the market to greater disposable income, more wealthy consumers and changing popular culture.
“Young people are showing a growing preference for beef, and family income increases are encouraging more beef purchases,” it said in a statement.
Japanese beef, now, is seeing growing popularity thanks to its strong reputation for quality and provenance, coupled with an understanding of how best consume it, reported Yoko Shuto, spokesperson for the Japan Food Product Overseas Promotion Centre, established by the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO).
Furthermore, demand for beef is growing in high-end Taiwan restaurants and more people are buying wagyu as a luxury gift or seeking it out after enjoying the meat while on holiday in Japan, a booming market for Taiwanese visitors.
Fukuoka-based trading company Ultimate Co, which exports wagyu globally from Kyushu, noted in a company memorandum that Japan’s highest-ranked ‘A5’ wagyu was most popular among its clients in Taiwan.
Japan’s Ministry of Finance reported that Taiwan imported 322 tonnes of beef from Japan between January to June 2018. The dramatic growth was fuelling a surge in Japanese beef exports overall. Over the same period, they rose 44% year-on-year, meaning calendar year 2018 export levels could exceed those of 2017.
Growth has been supported by Japanese Government initiatives to boost annual farm exports from US$7.1bn in 2017 to US$8.8bn in 2019. A cross-government team was established in July 2018 to boost food exports.
Japanese beef producers are poised for further growth in the Taiwanese market. Japan’s biggest exporter of premium wagyu Itoham Food said in a company statement that it expected its shipments to Taiwan to triple, to US$26.7m, in fiscal 2018 (April 2018 to March 2019).