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Japan's farm ministry sets up new bureau to expand food exports

This May 10, 2019 file photo shows the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Tokyo. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's farm ministry Thursday launched a new bureau to boost exports of agricultural products to make up for a shrinking domestic market as the country's population declines.

    The Export and International Affairs Bureau at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is expected to play a key role in efforts to achieve the goal of expanding farm exports to 2 trillion yen ($18 billion) by 2025 and 5 trillion yen by 2030 from about 920 billion yen in 2020.

    The bureau, in charge of negotiations and coordination with export destination countries, was created by integrating the International Affairs Department under the minister's Secretariat with export-related divisions of the Food Industry Affairs Bureau.

    The government hopes the export drive will help ensure the sustainable growth of the agricultural sector by strengthening domestic production and the brand appeal of Japan's farm products.

    The new bureau will also be involved in negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11-member regional free trade agreement that came into force in December 2018.

    Negotiations began last week for Britain to join the TPP as the country aims to enhance its economic presence in the region following its departure from the European Union.

    Also on Thursday, the farm ministry revived the Livestock Industry Bureau, which had existed until the reorganization of central government ministries and agencies in 2001, by upgrading the Livestock Industry Department under the Agricultural Production Bureau.

    The livestock bureau will support producers of items such as wagyu beef, known for its tenderness and marbled fat. Wagyu exports have been expanding strongly in recent years.

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