U.S. Food Barley Exports to Japan on the Rise

barley
Beta-glucan barley has heart-healthy properties that may reduce cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease, according to research done in the United States.

From January through March 2015, Japan imported 1,789 metric tons (82,000 bushels) of U.S. barley for food and food processing, according to Japanese Customs. At this rate, Japan is on course to import 50 percent more U.S. food barley this year than in the 2014 calendar year, when it imported 4,672 tons (214,500 bushels).  

“If this pace continues, it is possible that Japan will import around 7,000 to 8,000 tons (321,500 to 367,400 bushels) of food barley from the United States during the 2015 calendar year,” said U.S. Grains Council (USGC) Director in Japan Tommy Hamamoto. “This is good news for the U.S. barley industry as Japan’s food industry is willing to pay a premium for U.S. barley that contains high levels of beta-glucan.”

Beta-glucan barley has heart-healthy properties that may reduce cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease, according to research done in the United States. It also is reported to have the ability to reduce a person’s glycemic index.

With Japan’s health-conscious public, the country is an excellent market for high beta-glucan U.S. barley, and the Council has been promoting beta-glucan barley through various seminars and team visits resulting in a high-value brand for U.S. barley.

“This healthy branding will likely drive Japanese imports of food barley this year as a new health labeling scheme went into force on April 1,” Hamamoto said.

Since this announcement, a few Japanese barley processors have applied to label their products as healthy since these products may reduce a person’s glycemic index.

“Once they put their labels on products made with U.S. beta-glucan barley, we should expect to see more sales,” Hamamoto said.

To help this happen, this year the Council is working with the Japan Food Barley Promotion Council to promote the health benefits of U.S. barley. Council staff in Japan are also working to expand their contacts with food snack companies and related industries to educate them about the heart healthy claims of beta-glucan barley.