2023 Guide on Sustainable Management for Food Companies released by MAFF and available now

For the past two years, Meros’ Chisa Ogura has been a member of the expert advisory panel for research commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) to support ESG investment in  the Japanese food industry. The research itself was conducted by Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting and was supported by a panel of experts invited by MAFF to provide guidance, including Ms Ogura as an expert in the Japanese food and agriculture industry, major food manufacturers such as Kirin and Meiji, as well as specialists in areas of ESG investing, such as biodiversity.

In March 2023, MAFF released the results of this research – a practical Guide on Sustainable Management for Food Companies, aimed at small and medium-sized food companies in Japan, as they prepare to further address ESG issues. The report is now available here for downloading (in Japanese):

2023 Guide on Sustainable Management for Food Companies


The guide covers a range of critical topics, including ESG issues for food companies, sustainable management, governance issues, GHG reduction, human rights, food loss, plastic-free, animal welfare, and biodiversity. The guide is a very useful first introduction to the subject, as it provides a comprehensive overview of key points and background material on these topics.

For each of these environmental and social issues, the report outlines the goals to be achieved, specific measures to be taken, information disclosure methods, and other relevant information. It is expected that major publicly listed food manufacturers, which are required to disclose information on ESG issues, will need to work together with their existing suppliers, who are primarily small and medium-sized companies, to raise the level of the industry as a whole to address ESG and sustainability issues.

The expert advisory panel provided advice on the overall direction of the guide, how to choose priority topics and how to put ESG investment into the context of the Japanese food industry. As the Guide itself was developed, Ms Ogura and the panel advised on the key points that need to be emphasized, especially to small and medium-sized companies, to encourage innovation along the entire supply chain. They also gave recommendations on what may best motivate SMEs in the food industry to implement ESG initiatives and monitor results.

The guide is intended to be used directly by the management and staff of small and medium-sized food companies so that the entire food industry, both major manufacturers and smaller companies, can cooperate more easily by having a better mutual understanding of the challenges and expectations.

This research and the resulting guide is part of MAFF’s goal of increasing sustainable procurement and management throughout the food industry, as outlined in the Ministry’s Green Food System Strategy that was launched in 2021. The Green Food System Strategy aims to improve both productivity and sustainability through innovation throughout the entire food supply chain.

New!  Revised Meros – USDA Food Export Guides to Japan Online Now

Meros once again teamed up with the US Embassy Japan’s Agricultural Trade Office (ATO) to develop a new revised version of well-received series of export guides originally developed in 2019.  The series details the regulatory requirements for 24 specific products, from cheese to chocolate, seafood to spirits. While the aim of these guides is to support American SMEs who are interested in exporting food products to Japan, the detailed guides can be of interest to food exporters of all backgrounds.

Within the first month of their release in March 2022, the revised guides were downloaded over 1000 times.

The revised guides have added sections on new Japanese policy related to agricultural biotechnology as well as updated tariff schedules for each product to reflect changes that have come about since the US-Japan Trade Agreement came into effect on January 1, 2020.  Other changes include updated product labeling regulations as well as some product-specific changes.

USDA Meros Agricultural Biotechnology Japan Import
New sections include updates on Japan’s regulations on food and food additives derived from agricultural biotechnology.

Exporting to Japan can seem daunting with numerous required forms and official resources not always available in English. In these guides, we take potential exporters step-by-step from pre-embarkation to import clearance and lay out the expected forms and preparations necessary at each stage.

For new food exporters to Japan, common challenges include differences in food additive standards which may mean a product that is allowed for food products in the home country may not always be allowed in Japan.  Japan’s strict, low tolerance standards for agrochemical residues (MRLs) also trips up some potential exporters.  These guides aim to point out some of these common pitfalls in advance, so exporters are better prepared. They are not meant as “do-it-yourself” guides but as a tool to help exporters better navigate the export process together with their Japanese importers and distributors.  

We provide examples of required ingredients lists, manufacturing process charts as well as labeling for each type of product – but it is important for exporters to always keep in mind that requirements can change without notice – especially whenever sanitary or phytosanitary risks are involved. Ultimately, a successful export business to Japan requires ongoing vigilance for regulatory changes, as well as strong relationships with importers and partners in Japan.

Download the guides here.

CBD, Hemp Fiber, Seeds and Oil: Meros – USDA report series on Japan’s market for hemp-derived products released

Anyone exploring the shops and cafes of Japan’s major cities in the past two years has certainly noticed the explosion of CBD products on retail shelves, online shops and in a growing number of cafes. CBD consumer products range from tinctures and gummies to cosmetics and even pet products, some imported and some manufactured in Japan using CBD raw materials primarily from the U.S., China and the EU.

While CBD products are a major current trend, interest in the Japanese market for a variety of hemp-derived products has grown dramatically in the past few years.Hemp seed and hemp seed oil appear poised for growth in the Japanese health food sector; longer term, there may be opportunities for hemp fiber in construction, insulation and plastic.

Meros recently teamed up with the U.S. Embassy Japan to develop a series of reports on the Japanese market and import regulations for hemp-derived products, to serve as a resource for U.S. exporters planning their business development in Japan.  The 2018 U.S. Farm bill  legalized the production of industrial hemp in the U.S., defined any cannabis plant or derivative thereof, that contains not more than 0.3 percent delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”) on a dry-weight basis. This authorization of production in the U.S. has brought optimism that a new commodity crop can be developed in the U.S., with a wide range of uses in industrial, feed and wellness markets and potential for export to global markets.

While Japan has a long history of hemp cultivation, today Japan’s domestic hemp use is mainly limited to fiber for traditional uses linked to the Shinto religion, such as shimenawa ropes decorating shrines or the belts of top ranked sumo champions. To grow cannabis in Japan, a cultivation license is necessary and as of 2019 there were only 35 licensed cannabis cultivators, primarily in Tochigi Prefecture, and a total of 9 hectares under cultivation. There is little expectation that this number will increase in the near term.

And yet industrial hemp has a wide potential range of uses in Japan from seeds for human and animal consumption, fiber for use in apparel, building insulation, plastics and construction materials to hemp extracts such as CBD and other cannabinoids in cosmetics and wellness products.  It is expected that these raw materials will need to be imported to Japan; this makes it essential for potential hemp product suppliers to have a deep un

Under Japan’s legal regulatory framework, the Cannabis Control Act bans importation of “cannabis”. The Act defines ‘cannabis’ as “the cannabis plant (Cannabis sativa L.) and its products. However, mature cannabis stalks and products made from stalks (excluding resin, which is illegal), as well as cannabis seeds and products made from the seeds are excluded from this legal definition of “cannabis”. Japan has a zero-tolerance level for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in any product.

The Cannabis Control Act does not explicitly mention THC, however, in practice, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) interprets the presence of THC in a product to mean that parts of the cannabis plant other than mature stalks or seeds were used.Unacceptable parts include flowers, buds, leaves, immature stalks, or roots.

Exporting hemp products to Japan, therefore, requires various documentation and administrative steps in order to comply with the import regulations for legal hemp products.

In this new series of reports, Meros not only looks at the current market dynamics of each product category, but also examples of the import flow and documentation required for hemp fiber, hemp seed, hemp seed oil, CBD and hemp extract products.

Further regulatory changes are expected Japan’s hemp product market in the coming years, so success as a supplier to Japan’s hemp product markets will require on-going observation of the changing dynamics of each market and potential changes in regulation. As always, strong relationships with importers and partners in Japan will be critical for suppliers to navigate these dynamic markets.

The series of reports can be found at the following links:

The Japanese Market for Hemp Fiber

The Japanese Market for Hemp Seed and Hemp Seed Oil Products

The Japanese Market for CBD and Hemp Extracts