Muji store Japan

Freshfel Europe has called on EU and Japanese authorities to build fresh produce trade on the outcome of the new EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement.

The European Commission hosted an online seminar on the 19-20 April between the EU and Japan to facilitate discussions on how to boost trade for EU agriculture products on the Japanese market.

Freshfel said that with the new EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement now fully in force, it was the right moment to evaluate the state-of-play and future outlook of the agreement.

The association voiced its views and expectations for the European fresh fruit and vegetables sector on the many pending dossiers and on missed opportunities to grow business within the new Agreement.

No progress

Despite the coming into force of the new EU-Japan Economic Agreement and the positive outlook resulting from the visit of Commissioner Hogan in Tokyo in May 2019, Freshfel said 'no significant progress' had been made for fresh produce gaining new market access to Japan and its 127m inhabitants.

This was the key message of Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard at the EU-Japan seminar entitled ‘How the EU ensures the highest quality for its agriculture export’.

“Despite all the efforts from the EU and more than ten years of negotiations and clear interest for Japanese traders to import high quality, safe and sustainable fresh produce from the EU, too many applications for market access to the Japanese authorities have not been concluded yet,” Binard explained.

Today, EU exports to Japan are less than 10,000 tonnes, representing only a small percentage of the total 2.4m tonnes of imports into Japan from third countries.

“Multiple market access applications are pending ranging from Italian and Greek kiwifruit, Belgian pears and tomatoes, Portuguese and Hungarian cherries, and persimmons from Spain,' Binard continued. 'Many other provisions of existing protocols also need to be revised to remove pre-clearance, broaden the scope of protocols to more varieties or substitute methyl-bromide treatment by more environmentally friendly systems approaches.”

Time to deliver

Freshfel said it was 'time to deliver the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement and speed up negotiations to open new market opportunities'.

'EU fresh produce represents a seal of quality, reliability and diversity for Japanese consumers,' the group continued. 'On the occasion of the UN International Year of Fruit and Vegetables 2021 authorities should prioritise fresh produce in their market access negotiations and urgently unlock pending hurdles.'

The EU fruit and vegetables sector exports to 140 destinations around the world based on international standards and strict EU regulatory environment, with EU growers and exporters demonstrating their expertise to handle high quality and safe produce, bringing competitiveness and mastering logistic skills to access the most sophisticated markets, Freshfel said.

“Under the new bilateral agreement, the momentum today should not be missed,' Binard concluded. 'The EU and Japan should work hard in the coming months to build trade on the new business environment of the Agreement and secure that Japanese trade and consumers can enjoy the high quality and safety of European fresh produce in their daily healthy diet.”