Hokkaido–Russia Economic Exchange: On Food in Particular

|Russia

The red figures for Hokkaido’s interregional balance of payments are a whopping 2.7 trillion yen. This total is an astounding figure exceeding one tenth of Hokkaido’s total production of 20 trillion yen. If we were talking about an ordinary household, it would certainly collapse. In addition, it has been continuing for so long that you wonder when it all began. It is absolutely amazing that it has survived.

While the lion’s share of the red figures is financed with support from the state such as the development budget, because this is decreasing yearly the total is on a trend of growing still further.

Searching out items that are seen as superior by the outside world and striving to increase their income, Hokkaido has set food and tourism as its main attractions. However, as the value of Hokkaido’s processed-food production is a little over 2 trillion yen, with it being unclear whether it would somehow balance the books it would be an unrealistic speculation for the people of Hokkaido to cut down on food and try to sell externally all the food produced in Hokkaido, including marine produce.

Therefore, it is necessary that Hokkaido tackle matters for all its worth, with a determination to sell everything that can be sold, and not just foodstuffs

In 2000, when I was Executive Director of the Russia Section at the Hokkaido Government, I established a Hokkaido Sakhalin Office on Sakhalin. The target has been the expansion of economic exchange, taking the Sakhalin Project as a backdrop.

Furthermore, along with the parallel establishment of the Hokkaido International Business Center where businesses and the like took the main role in attempting to promote reliable interchange, exports of so-called construction-related types of cargo have grown greatly, including construction machinery, equipment, construction-related works and used cars. However, going into 2009, because of the large hike in tariffs on used cars and a quietening down of the relationship concerning Sakhalin project construction, there was a large drop in economic activity, and the present state of affairs is that a replacement sector is not in sight.

Amid all this, two trends are becoming established.

One is the relationship concerning construction. A consequence of the Sakhalin projects, the family show homes which were built in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk are of very great interest. The so-called cold region technology has been regarded well. This suggests the possibility of being able to sell cold region technology which covers not just the buildings, but an overall construction, including the development of infrastructure relating to the daily lives of the people and the putting in place of the foundations of socioeconomic activity.

If developed further, because the relationship concerning construction has a strong public nature, bureaucrat-led exports will also be possible, setting the relationship to run from urban planning to construction, management, services and operations, and maintenance.

For Hokkaido it is the time to examine those sales methods.

The other trend is food. The Russian economy, with energy resources as its backdrop, is developing greatly, and is raising the standard of living of the Russian people. Starting with Moscow, restaurants that use Japanese foods are increasing, and from the level of the spread of so-called health foods, it is understood that they are aiming toward the improvement of quality. While there is such an environment there has not been any visible movement for the relationship concerning Hokkaido food. This is because the products are very difficult to deal with, being high-risk, with constraints including the best-before date, in addition to the amount of money also being small with small lots of various product types in a region where small and very small companies like those in Hokkaido predominate.

For commerce, there won’t be progress unless they resolve this now that Hokkaido has set food as its priority—although being what they least want to do.

In 2006, at a presentation on “Hokkaido Foods” held on Sakhalin, in response to a question from the local television company I stated that “For economic exchange the securing of sales channels is important, and it is necessary, starting out from Sakhalin, to work with an eye on the continental Far Eastern region and even as far as Moscow”, but in order to continue sustaining economic activity, the existence and securing of a consumer market stable enough for moving commercial material in container units are necessary.

However, as far as I am aware, the businesses taking on such distribution have not existed in either Hokkaido or on Sakhalin.

If they don’t exist then the only thing to do is create them. So in 2010 I moved to G.I. Plan Co., Ltd., constructed a system to make trade feasible, and participated at a trade fair that was held in Vladivostok. Regarding this project, with Hokkaido having the objective of promoting its food produce, they test-marketed 20 products, and these were very well received. Most of the food products sold out, and also led to commerce-based exports.

I think that with this it had finally been possible to open up the trade pipeline relating to foods, which had been a pending issue for many years.

From hereon, along with widening this pipeline, it is necessary to continue increasing the number of food pipelines that can be developed to all kinds of regions, including to Southeast Asia and not just to Russia alone.

That is what I want to set my sights on.

Next I would like to discuss the issues and measures for resolution of the trade pertaining to food.

[Translated by ERINA]