Irish lamb was officially launched to Japanese meat representatives by Bord Bia at an EU Beef and Lamb Seminar in Tokyo earlier today, Friday, September 27.

Following the recent market access secured for sheepmeat by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, the seminar showcased Irish and EU lamb and beef to a delegation of over 90 Japanese representatives, including food buyers, chefs and media.

Ireland’s commitment to food safety and sustainability was also highlighted as part of a three-year co-funded EU campaign implemented by Bord Bia to promote meat across Asia.

This seminar follows on from the successful Agri-Food Trade Mission to Japan in June, which marked the opening of the Bord Bia Tokyo office.

Irish Ambassador to Japan Paul Kavanagh and Bord Bia Market Specialist Joe Moore represented Ireland at the event, with former Irish international rugby player Bernard Jackman and winner of the San Pelligrino Young Chef of the Year competition 2018 Yasu Fujio addressing attendees about the positive attributes of Irish beef and lamb.

Speaking at the event, Moore said: “As one of the world’s largest meat importers, Japan offers significant growth potential for Irish sheepmeat at a time when our food and drink industry is energised in unlocking opportunities in new markets.

Over the last five years, Japanese sheepmeat imports have grown in double digits, with an 18% volume growth in 2018 alone.

“This seminar is a key opportunity to build on the strong reputation Irish pork, dairy and seafood has gained in Japan and demonstrate how the Irish food industry can work with customers in responding to consumer demands for quality and sustainably produced food.”

Moore also highlighted the upcoming Rugby World Cup match between Ireland and Japan over the weekend, highlighting that the match “represents an opportunity to drive awareness of Irish beef and lamb to an audience of 127 million people and promote Ireland as a world class food and drink producer”.

Irish exports to Japan have been growing steadily since 2008; from €25 million to almost €115 million in 2018. Exports are led by pork (€41 million) and dairy (€41 million), followed by seafood (€14 million), beverages (€8 million) and beef (€3.6 million, including offal).

Through its Prioritising Markets – Opportunities for Growth study, Bord Bia has identified Japan as being in the top five priority markets for Irish food and drink exports.

Japan is currently Ireland’s fourth largest market for both pork and cheddar, while it remains a valuable and increasingly important market destination for Irish beef offal and seafood, and a priority future market for Irish whiskey and other spirits.