Japan boosting butter imports amid shortage

By Jim Webster

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 28, 2014 - Japan is planning to buy an extra 7,000 metric tons of butter for commercial use this year, over and above its commitments under international trade treaties, to stabilize prices amid a domestic shortage of the dairy product, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) said.

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The Kyodo News Agency said the country's first emergency butter imports in two years are being prompted by a drop in milk production due to last year's sweltering summer and a decline in the number of dairy farmers.

The 7,000 tons of butter Japan plans to import will be in addition to its “minimum access” dairy purchases for this fiscal year. In the Uruguay Round that led to the creation of the World Trade Organization, Japan committed to “minimum access” import purchases for designated dairy commodities of up to 137,000 tons in milk equivalent calculation, including butter, non-fat dry milk (NFDM), edible whey, butter oil, and dairy spreads. Japan will also import 4,178 tons of NFDM under its minimum access commitment, MAFF said.

Imports will be made with a view to getting the butter to food producers by the end of November in time for the Christmas cake rush, Kyodo reported. Yasue Fujioka, deputy director of MAFF's milk and dairy products division, told Agri-Pulse bids for tenders for butter will be taken on June 3 and 12. She said tenders will be accepted on a lowest price basis.

Tetsuo Ishihara, managing director of the Japan Dairy Industry Association, said his country will also need to make extra purchases of butter in the next fiscal year. "We will continue facing a shortage of milk for butter and NFDM," Ishihara said.

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