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Shizuoka tea company invests in Morocco to spread Japanese product worldwide

In this photo taken in March of this year, Katsutoshi Furuhashi of Maruzen Tea Co., right, shakes with his Moroccan counterpart in a joint venture for tea production in Morocco. (Photo courtesy of Maruzen Tea Co., Ltd.)

SHIZUOKA -- A tea manufacturer in this central Japan city famous for green tea production has become the first Japanese company to invest in the North African country of Morocco to make tea products with a local enterprise in a bid to promote green tea in European and American markets.

Maruzen Tea Co. Ltd. was attracted to Morocco because the country is an international hub for tea products coming from Kenya and other locations worldwide. The Japanese firm invested 20 percent of the founding capital for a joint venture with a local company, Maruzen Tea Morocco (SARL).

The Moroccan connection emerged in February out of the Shizuoka company's involvement in a tea joint venture in Thailand. In the North African country, preparations have been made to start a factory, which is scheduled to begin a trial sometime in November.

Katsutoshi Furuhashi, 42, president of the Japanese company, said he wants to expand export routes for teas from Shizuoka and other products. "Not many people overseas know tea is a staple product of Japan. I want to improve the awareness of Japanese tea by establishing a presence in Morocco," he said. His project is supported by the Shizuoka Prefectural Government as it is promoting local products in overseas markets.

According to the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), Maruzen is the first Japanese company to enter the Moroccan tea industry. As an increasing number of firms from Japan are making inroads into the North African country, a JETRO official said the trade promotion body wants the Shizuoka case to serve as a catalyst for further Japanese investments there.

A record high 14.357 billion yen worth of Japanese green tea was exported abroad last year, according to the Finance Ministry. Furuhashi explained that having a foothold in Morocco is promising because buyers come to the country from all over the world and the local tea manufacturer SITI has established trust with major buyers.

(Japanese original by Yukina Furukawa, Shizuoka Bureau)

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