P.E.I. organic growers target Japanese market

P.E.I.'s organic farmers are starting to find their way into lucrative markets in Japan.

P.E.I.'s organic growers are starting to find their way into lucrative markets in Japan.

Raymond Loo, a farmer from Springfield, in central P.E.I., is part of a years-long initiative to ship 19,000 jars of organic jam to Japan. Loo told CBC News on Wednesday it's taken a lot of time and effort to get the jam approved.

"They test for everything in Japan," Loo said.

"We have to have pesticide residue certificate to go along, we have to show all of our certifications. You know, it's a very tight market, it's known around the world to be the toughest market to get into, but if you're allowed into that market, it gives you credibility to go into anywhere else."

About 30 Island farmers interested inexporting to theJapanese market attended a workshop Wednesday in Charlottetown. Kenny Bogus, a training co-ordinator with the Organic Crop Improvement Association, travelled to the Island from Nebraska to present the workshop.

Bogus said Japanese organic standards are more strict than those in North America. They include more restrictions about what can be put on crops and how long fields must be free of chemicals before they can be considered organic.

Japanese consumers, he said, are also more aware about what they want.

"They know the rules and they check the rules," Bogus said.

"[That's why] this training is mandatory, because we want to make sure that any certified farmers, processors are following the rules so that they don't have problems in the future when they do get their products into Japan."

The soon-to-be-exported jam will have two advantages in the Japanese market: its organic certification, and the face of Anne of Green Gables, a popular symbol of P.E.I. in Japan, on the label. Loo said he hopes the jam and Wednesday's workshop are just the beginning of a boom in organic exports to Japan.