Since we last brought you this special edition we have new developments
to report on the export front. Japan is still a major market for California
agriculture because of price and quality. But the country has slipped
from second to third place behind Canada and the European Union. Experts
say the main reason is the growth of the other two markets and the Japanese
"Their economy was in the doldrums for much of the 1990s and then,
too, the last couple of years. They've been growing again recently. But
their slow growth in the economy has been a problem." Daniel Sumner,
professor of Agricultural Economics at UC Davis, says another problem
is tight trade restrictions. Some of those restrictions eased for California
rice in 1994, making it the number one California commodity going to Japan.
But the state's fourth popular product for that market-beef-is undergoing
problems due to the mad cow scare."
"What's been happening for about the last ten months, aggressive,
but slow and pretty painful negotiations trying to get the Japanese to
open the market, at least partially," said Sumner.
Sumner says there's no evidence of health risks from the young, fat cattle
we send to Japan, yet, still, the Japanese have kept the market closed.
On the up side, the Japanese have a growing passion for California wines.
"Japanese buy a lot of wine from Europe so we're competing with
the French and the Italians there as well as the Australians just like
we do in other places in the world. It's a touch market but California's
done pretty well there. We expect that market to continue to grow,"
Many California wineries are pushing moderately priced varieties to Japan,
making them Affordable to price-conscious consumers. Wente Winery in Livermore
has been marketing to the Japanese for more than 20 years and continues
to increase its exports.
And the Japanese are nuts for California tree nuts. Says Sumner, "Japan
is a big market for those products. Almonds and pistachios have been growing
there quite rapidly. And that partly reflects the growing supply and availability
here in California."
Sumner says overall the future appears bright for the California-Japan