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Barley Represents Growing Niche for Farmers

Japan purchased nearly 1.33M bushels of U.S. food barley in 2018

The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) met with the Japan Food Barley Promotion Association in May as part of its decade of work promoting the heart-healthy benefits of high beta-glucan barley for Japanese consumers and growing a niche market for U.S. farmers.

“Japanese consumers place a high importance on the nutritional value of their food,” says Tommy Hamamoto, USGC director in Japan. “Recognizing this health awareness, the Council started promoting specific varieties of U.S. food barley containing high levels of beta-glucan, a dietary fiber, and today, the Japanese market is an important market for this product.”

High beta-glucan barley has heart-healthy properties that may reduce cholesterol, lower the risk of heart disease and reduce glycemic index, according to U.S. research. These nutritional properties make U.S. varieties of food barley attractive for Japanese food producers who use the grain to produce various food products, including cereal products and snack bars.

Japanese imports of this specific type of barley are growing. Japan purchased nearly 29,000 metric tons (1.33 million bushels) of U.S. food barley in 2018, slightly up year-over-year. According to the Japan customs statistics, Japan imported more than 11,000 tons (505,000 bushels) of U.S. food barley from January to April 2019.

To help boost U.S. market share, USGC has partnered with Zenbakruen (All Japan Barley Industry Association), the Japan Food Barley Promotion Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) to promote the heart healthy benefits of barley with food snack companies and industry associations through educational seminars, trade teams and reverse missions. Based on these continued efforts, the industry now also independently promotes these products in the Japanese market.

USGC continues to support the positive growth for food barley in Japan by keeping partner organizations and snack food companies up-to-date with the latest information and research developments related to new varieties of U.S. beta-glucan barley.

“Although overall volume is small, Japan is an important and growing niche market for U.S. food barley,” Hamamoto says. “The growth in demand for U.S. high beta-glucan barley is a direct result of the Council’s work to promote the health benefits of these varieties and contract production with U.S. barley growers.”

Learn more about the USGC's work to promote barley in Japan.

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