Cheese 2006


  1. Cheese is said to be one of the oldest food products made by man, and contains all kinds of nutrition that the human body needs. When, where, by whom, and how such a valuable food was first made is unknown, but it is said that it was already being made in ancient Egypt around 4000 B.C.

  2. In Japan, the first trial production of cheese took place in 1875 in Hokkaido. This is why natural cheese made in Tokachi, Hokkaido is still famous among domestic cheeses. Its selling points are that its safe, dependable and delicious.

  3. Later on, with the Westernization of diets, cheese steadily made its way to becoming a popular food. It is now one of the largest growing dairy products.

  4. Cheese can be roughly divided into two categories: (1) natural cheese, made by adding lactic acid bacteria and curdling enzymes to milk from animals such as cows, goats and sheep, and ripened naturally; and (2) processed cheese, made by using two or more natural cheeses and blending them together, or mixing spices and other ingredients for variety in taste and flavor. Globally, natural cheeses are predominant and more popular. In Japan, in the past the cheese market consisted mostly of processed cheeses, but since 1993 consumption volume of natural cheeses has increased to overtake that of processed cheeses. In FY 2003, however, the two categories accounted for almost an equal amount of consumption of cheese in Japan, with natural cheeses just barely exceeding processed cheeses.

  5. There are seven types of natural cheeses: (1) Hard type (bacteria-ripened), (2) Semi-hard type (bacteria-ripened), (3) Blue-mold type (mold-ripened), (4) Chevre type (mold/bacteria-ripened), (5) Wash type (rind washed, bacteria-ripened), (6) White-mold type (mold-ripened), and (7) Fresh type (unripened). Camembert, the most popular cheese in Japan, is a white-mold type cheese.

  6. The total consumption volume of cheese in FY 2003 in Japan was 255,889 tons, and of this volume, domestic production accounted for 34,899 tons (13.64%) and imports accounted for 220,990 tons (86.36%). By category, processed cheeses accounted for 119,403 tons, and natural cheeses (direct consumption) accounted for 136,486 tons. Regarding processed cheese consumption, 21,133 tons of domestic natural cheeses and 73,031 tons of imported natural cheeses were used as ingredients in processed cheeses. This reveals that many of the processed cheeses produced in Japan use imported natural cheeses as ingredients. In other words, a large amount of imported natural cheeses are used to create processed cheeses that suit the taste preferences and tastes of the Japanese public.

  7. As stated above, the domestic production volume of natural cheeses in FY 2003 was 34,899 tons, and of this amount, those used as ingredients for processed cheeses was 21,133 tons. Therefore, the amount of natural cheeses directly consumed was 13,766 tons.

    The total consumption volume of cheese in Japan is as follows:


    FY 1999   FY 2001   FY 2003
    243,718   257,201   255,889
    Unit: tons    Source: Agricultural Production Bureau of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Japan

  8. The amount of imported cheeses increased from 184,543 tons in FY 1999 to 220,990 tons in FY 2003. Countries that Japan imports from are as follows:

        2001   2003
    Australia   181,316   192,955
    New Zealand   128,249   99,667
    France   41,650   53,966
    Denmark   45,108   53,480
    talyI   30,957   43,431
    Germany   30,579   34,814
    Netherlands   28,101   31,448
    U.S.A.   28,544   26,174
    Others   43,059   34,886
    Total 557,563   570,821

    The breakdown by category is as follows:

    Natural cheese   526,924   533,668
    Processed cheese   30,639   37,153
    (within tariff quota)j        
    Natural cheese   111,240   98,329

    Unit: US$1,000    Source: Trade Statistics by the Ministry of Finance, Japan


  9. A total of \230 million worth of Japan-made cheeses have been exported to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand and other countries in 2004; it is assumed that these are consumed mainly by Japanese people residing abroad.

  10. Regarding the import of natural cheeses, there is the system of tariff quotas. Under this system, the import of natural cheeses used as ingredients in processed cheeses would be tax-free up to 2.5 times the amount of domestic natural cheeses used for the same purpose. The import tariff for cheeses imported outside the tariff quota is currently 29.8%. When applying for this tariff quota, exporters must receive allotments according to the tariff quota announcement (Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries) made six times a year at the beginning of April, June, August, October, December and February. For 2005, 61,100 tons have already been allotted in April, and only 80 tons remain as of December due to returns and such (as of December 14, 2005). Approximately one-fifth of the imported natural cheeses are imported tax-free using the tariff quota system, and are used as ingredients in processed cheeses. The remaining four-fifths are imported with a high import tariff of 29.8%, and also used as ingredients in processed cheeses made in Japan. Although the tariff is close to 30%, apparently it still is worth it to import cheese for ingredients in processed cheeses sold in Japan.

  11. The import tariff for imported fresh cheese and curd (grated cheese, frozen, crumbled cheese) is currently 22.4%, while the import tariff for processed cheeses is high at 40%. Therefore, the amount of processed cheeses imported is small; most processed cheeses are made in Japan using imported natural cheeses.

  12. The reasons that cheese import is doing well include the following: (1) various new product lineups of processed cheeses such as cheese spreads and ready-cut cheeses have entered the cheese market, and since these are selling well, the import of natural cheeses used as ingredients in these processed cheeses is increasing; (2) Recently, production of cheeses that match the taste preferences of Japanese people have begun in many countries. Also, with the increase of Japanese people experienced in residing in or traveling to overseas countries, the number of consumers who are accustomed to rich and varied flavors of overseas cheeses has increased as well; (3) With the development of the restaurant industry, dishes and cuisines that use cheese such as pizza and pasta have become a part of the Japanese diet; (4) With the trend of health-consciousness, cheese has begun attracting much attention as a balanced food that contains various nutritional aspects; (5) Domestic manufacturers are making active sales efforts such as using cooking programs on TV, introducing cheeses in magazine articles, and TV commercials.

  13. The unit purchase price of cheese in Japanese homes is on a downward trend. The price of cheeses used as ingredients is increasing due to the increase in import prices in recent years, and together with the deflating economy, domestic cheese eaters are placed in a tight spot.

  14. Status of cheese purchases per Japanese home (up to this point) is as follows.


    FY 2002   ¥3,120   2,283 g
    FY 2003   ¥3,096   2,276 g
    FY 2004   ¥3,022   2,302 g
    FY 2005 Jan. to Sept.   ¥2,229   1,683 g
    Source: Family Income and Expenditure Survey conducted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan


  15. The future outlook is good. (1) The amount of cheese consumption per person in Japan is still small compared to other countries, especially the U.S. and Europe; it is only 1/14 that of France, and 1/5 of New Zealand. Therefore, an increase in consumption can be expected in the future. (2) With the wine boom, department stores and supermarkets are enriching their cheese corners, enabling people to buy many different kinds of cheese. Even if prices increased overseas, imports will most likely continue to increase.



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