Friday, October 19, 2018
 Japan to Import More Butter as Shortage Worsens  

Japan will turn to overseas markets for the second time in a year as their butter shortage continues. This may lead to higher prices for consumers due to tariffs that protect local producers of the basic cooking and baking ingredient.


The government is planning to import an extra 10,000 tons of butter by the end of October, Kyodo News reported late on Tuesday, without citing sources. Government officials were not immediately available for comment.

The move may benefit suppliers in New Zealand, where Japan bought much of the record 12,900 tons it imported to replenish stocks when butter disappeared from shop shelves at the end of last year, a time when demand soars for making cakes.

Japan imposes high tariffs on dairy produce to protect a small number of domestic dairy farmers, but the action comes at a cost for consumers as output volume and sales prices are set by the state, and imports are under effective government control.

"Given the situation since last fall where there's been butter shortage observed at supermarkets, we decided to boost imports to secure supplies," Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters on Tuesday.

The government planned to import 2,800 tons for the April-July period, but would have to import more. The amount of extra imports would be set by the end of this week, Hayashi said.

Demand for butter is expected to increase by 0.9 percent to 74,700 tons in the year through March, while production is set to rise by 5.2 percent to 64,800 tons, the JapanDairy Association said on Monday. Taking into account the planned imports that would imply a shortfall of about 7,100 tons.

Japan is under pressure to cut high import tariffs on dairy and other products like rice, beef and pork as part of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement being negotiated with the United States and other countries.

The U.S. is optimistic a deal to set up a free trade zone across the Pacific will be concluded soon, with sensitive issues likely to be ironed out when its Congress resumes sessions, the top U.S. trade official said on Sunday.

Source: Reuters

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