soybean field

USSEC Japan Participates in Largest-Ever Tofu Reception

USSEC recently participated in an inauguration reception in Japan to celebrate the unification of Zentoren (National Federation of Tofu Commerce & Industry Trade Association).  Zentoren was previously comprised of three different organizations but was recently integrated as a single entity, General Incorporated Foundation National Federation of Tofu (still known as “Zentoren”).  The over 240 participants represented a wide range of industries such as tofu, natto, soymilk, soy sauce, miso, cooking professionals, wholesalers, trading firms, government officials, foreign embassies (Canada and Austria), upper house members, and the former Vice Minister of Economy, Trade & Industry.  USSEC International Director - Program Strategy Drew Kline, Ph.D.; USSEC Japan Country Director Mitsuyuki Nishimura; and USSEC Japan Human Utilization Director Masi Tateishi attended the meeting.

The Japanese tofu industry is currently facing excessive price competition where the cost of raw materials such as soybeans, energies, packaging materials, and vegetable oils are rising as well as being challenged by the demographics of declining birth rates and the soaring proportion of elderly people.  In order to address this situation and solicit cooperation, Zentoren & Japan Tofu Association made a mutual public appeal during the event.  The following six slogans were introduced and chanted by all the attendees:  1. Stop Dumping TOFU; 2. Fight as One; 3. Protect Traditional Food of TOFU; 4. Contribution to Society with TOFU; 5. Demand Expansion of TOFU; and 6. Collaborate – Unite - Coexist.  These appeals attracted more than 25 national broadcasts with 50 TV crews assembled on standby to film the event for evening news programs.
Tofu industry representatives followed this event with a visit to the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Yoshimasa Hayashi, on June 19 to make the following three requests:  to mediate between consumers and retail organizations; to protect against dumping; and to consider measures for the stable supply of food beans.
In 2012, the U.S. exported more than 160,000 metric tons (MT) of IP food beans to the Japanese tofu industry, valued at approximately $5.2 billion USD retail.  USSEC Japan will continue to support Japan’s tofu industry to maximize the sales of higher value U.S. IP food beans as well as to help expand the demand for U.S. soy.