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Japan's farm, fisheries exports likely hit 1st-half record

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's agriculture, forestry and fisheries exports for the first half of 2018 are likely to have exceeded 400 billion yen ($3.6 billion), hitting a record for the period for the sixth straight year, sources close to the matter said Saturday.

The level, a rise of more than 10 percent from a year earlier, indicates it is on course to reach the government's annual export target of 1 trillion yen in 2019.

The government expects such exports to keep expanding as Japan and the European Union signed a free trade agreement, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal grouping Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim countries is set to take effect possibly early next year.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will announce the latest data by next Friday, the sources said.

For the first half of 2018, notable growth was seen in exports to China, the Philippines, Vietnam and other Asian countries of beef and strawberries in particular, the sources said.

According to the ministry, year-on-year exports of beef grew 40 percent, apples 50 percent and strawberries 40 percent between January and May, with shipments of rice, sake and mackerel also showing a solid increase.

To reach the government's target of 1 trillion yen in 2019, exports need to grow around 11 percent in 2018 and 2019, the ministry said. "If we can keep this pace the target will come into sight," a ministry source said.

The Japanese government has been asking 26 countries and regions to lift their import restrictions implemented after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.

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