Food companies in Vietnam have revealed that food exports to Japan are on the rise, noting better quality control, easing of trade regulations and new product innovations have driven expansion in the Japanese market.

The country sent a delegation of manufacturers to FoodEx Japan last week in the hope of encouraging stronger business ties between the two nations. Japan is currently Vietnam’s second largest import market after the US.

According to officials, the Vietnamese economy gained $1.46bn from exporting food to Japan, a growth of 6.6% from the previous year. Notably, fruit and vegetable exports were valued at $75.1m, a rise of 1.5%.

Food producer DoveCo said that overseas sales of frozen fruit and vegetables have continued to improve each year since the company entered the Japanese market ten years ago.

“We are now selling around 8,000mt a year in fruit and vegetables alone. We also sell our juice products, but the volumes are smaller,”​ he commented.

Fruit and vegetable specialist NA Foods found a similar rise in export sales: “At the moment around 5% of our exports go to Japan but we see a lot of opportunity to increase this,” said spokesperson Giang Nguyen.​

“We started selling to Japan around five years ago and we have had a lot of success here with our ginger products, especially the pastes.”

Seafood supplier Incomfish, which has been supplying fish to the Japanese market for 60 years, has found that new product innovation of value-added foods has helped the company continue to make an impact on the Japanese seafood scene.

Incomfish vice-director Tran Bach Duong noted: “We have a long history of trading with Japan, but we realise we need to diversify. That’s why we are now manufacturing products such as spring rolls, but the fish trade is very competitive.”​

In 2007, Japan Customs recorded that import taxes on agricultural products stood at 10.1% and 4.6% for fish and seafood products. As Japan plans to cut import taxes to 2.8% on a majority of food products, all three firms could potentially benefit.

The Vietnam-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement noted that average taxes on Japan’s goods exported to Vietnam will decrease to 7%, with an aim of eradicating tariffs on 90% of exports by 2028.

Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Quoc Khanh conceded that the nation’s food companies must work hard to ensure quality and food safety are not compromised with the increased supply.

“Meeting Japan’s quality standards is a compulsory requirement for every importer. The Vietnamese exporter will have to meet the demand, if they want to penetrate this market,” he said.