News & Events
By: Tommy Hamamoto, U.S. Grains Council Director in Japan
Japan is an important market for U.S. food barley, which is used in tea, liquor and cereal. In 2013, Japan nearly doubled imports of U.S. barley for food compared to 2012, in part due to promotional efforts by the U.S. Grains Council. In support of this effort, the Council hosted a Japanese food barley team composed of key buyers and end-users to the U.S. barley belt from July 29 to Aug. 6.
The majority of U.S. barley is grown under contract, with very little being sold in the open market. It is important for potential Japanese buyers interested in U.S. sourcing to understand this system. The Japanese team attended a short course at the Northern Crop Institute in North Dakota to develop their market knowledge.
During the course, they learned about the process of creating contracts with U.S. suppliers, including the necessary specifications for buying the grain. The team also learned about nutritional benefits of U.S. food barley, specifically beta-glucan.
According to research done in the United States, barley that contains beta-glucan may lower cholesterol. This has become a key marketing strategy for U.S. barley-based food products in Japan. Aware of this, researchers in the United States are developing new varieties that contain a higher concentration of beta-glucan.
The Japanese food barley team was also able to visit test plots in Idaho and Washington, where they learned about these new high beta-glucan barley varieties and varieties that could produce larger yields.
The team’s experience in the United States, the Council’s ongoing barley promotion in Japan and the Council’s work with the Japanese food barley industry are expected to help expand sales of U.S. food barley to Japan in the coming years.
Click here to view more photos from this team’s visit.