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Increasing demand for tomatoes from the fast food industry and convenience stores

According to the latest GAIN Report released by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), US fresh tomato exports show good potential for higher sales in the Japanese food service market. Demand for fresh and cooking tomatoes is increasing in the Asian country.

Japanese tomatoes have a higher Brix level, so they spoil faster than US tomatoes, whose Brix level is lower.

As the USDA FAS reports, Japanese fast food outlets, hamburger shops and convenience store sandwiches demand fresh tomatoes throughout the year, but the market often faces shortages of imported tomatoes during winter.

Most Japanese tomatoes are produced for table consumption and have a high gel content, which makes them unsuitable for use in hamburgers and sandwiches. Japanese higher Brix tomatoes spoil faster than US lower Brix.

Therefore, Japanese buyers see US tomatoes as a useful ingredient for burgers and sandwiches.

To date, suppliers from California have delivered tomatoes during the summer season, from May to September.

In the winter months, Japan imports from Mexico and New Zealand, the USDA FAS reports. According to the GAIN Report, if US suppliers are able to meet demand all the year round, US tomato exports to Japan have good potential for growth. Aware of this opportunity, the California Tomato Farmers (CTF) opened an office in Japan in April 2011.

Japanese tomatoes

Japan produced 690,700 tonnes of tomatoes in 2010, a decrease of 3.65% compared with 2009 and 15% less than in 2000. According to the GAIN Report, tomatoes in Japan are generally grown in greenhouses, while open field tomatoes are only grown in summer months.

Japanese tomato varieties are recognised as having an attractive appearance with a high sugar content (Brix) and gel content, the USDA reports.

Exports and imports

According to the GAIN Report, Japan is the third most important market for US tomatoes after Canada and Mexico. The US exported a total of 1,731 tonnes of tomatoes to Japan in 2010. On the other hand, the US is Japan’s second largest tomato supplier after Korea.

Source: Fresh Plaza

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