OPG’s airfreight container project for Okinawan products to five Asian cities does well

OPG’s airfreight container project for Okinawan products to five Asian cities does well

Volume for Okinawan products handled in the Airlift Containers Project run by the Okinawa Prefectural Government


August 24, 2011 Sakae Toiyama, reporter of Ryukyu Shimpo

The Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) has launched a project hiring room in air cargo containers to carry Okinawan products from Naha Airport to five Asian cities such as Hong Kong, Seoul and Shanghai. Designed to expand overseas sales channels for Okinawan products, the project has got off to a good start.
The volume of products carried by air reached a monthly average of 9.4 tons in 2010, about a 24-fold increase over the 0.4 ton of November 2009, before the project started. However, in the first half of 2011, January to June, it accounted for only 0.2% of Okinawan products in terms of volume handled at Naha Airport for cargo with an overseas destination. OPG is calling on companies in the prefecture to make greater use of the initiative.

Figures for commodity items utilizing the project in 2010.

 
OPG has supported this project since December 2009, taking advantage of the opportunity offered by All Nippon Airways when it launched an international cargo hub operation at Naha Airport. The transaction volumes of Okinawan products vary each month, depending on the situation. Volume handled decreased for several months following the Great East Japan Earthquake and there was a temporary halt of local distribution operations during Shunsetsu (Lunar New Year), but in general it is going smoothly. Transaction volume in March was 6.2 tons, the highest ever figure for one month, due to the fact that an exhibition of products was being held in Hong Kong that month.

By category of available product in 2010, processed foods such as pork luncheon meat and salt accounted for the largest proportion at 26%, green goods such as goya and sweet potatoes accounted for 25%, livestock products such as pork for 15%, health food related items such as fucoidan for 12% and awamori for 6%. In terms of destinations, Hong Kong is the most common, followed by Taiwan, Thailand, Shanghai and Korea. Recently, the volume of items exported to Thailand has steady increased, such as mushrooms, including Okinawan bunashimeji.

Since last year, Okinawan confectionery maker Nampo Trade Co., Ltd., which utilizes this initiative, has been selling 50 of its items, including its flagship products beniimo-tart and shio-chinsukou at high-end supermarkets in Hong Kong. Mutsuko Asato, the company’s director of business planning, said, “The number of repeater tourists to Okinawa has been increasing. But in inverse proportion to that, the average amount of money spent by customers has decreased. We think that with fewer children around, the domestic confectionery market will reach its peak in the not-too-distant future, so we have to extend our business into the fast-growing Asian markets.” She also said that they will continue to develop products tailored to the tastes of health-conscious customers in Asia and will work to further gear up for exports.

Tatsuzo Kinjo, who is responsible for the airfreight container project and is chief of the overseas section of Okinawa Prefectural Public Corporation for Products, said, “We have some sales channels for products in Hong Kong, but we need Okinawan products to broaden those channels by increasing their sales. However, the amount of sales for China, the market that we are aiming for, accounts for only 2-3% of our total business. We intend to tap into the Chinese market, and at the same time to enhance the power of the Okinawan brand of products in future.”

(English Translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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