Discovering Japan

I'm working for a Japanese company that wants to find small U.S. companies interested in exporting food products to Japan. I've worked with foreign exporters, but finding American exporters is more difficult. How should I go about my search?

Mike D. Carroll


If you want to find small companies that wish to export, there are thousands trying to get found. We asked experts for advice for both you and small-company owners trying to export.

"Companies interested in exporting should first determine what kind of demand there is for their products in the country that interests them. One way to do this is by using services like Buyer Alert," says Audrey Talley of the Office of Food Safety and Technical Services of the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). "This program allows potential exporters to place a free trade announcement with the FAS Agricultural Export Program, which then disseminates the message to U.S. embassies in foreign countries. The embassies pass it along to agricultural libraries in their host countries."

The FAS's Ag Export Connections service sponsors both Buyer Alert and Trade Leads. Trade Leads collects foreign importers' inquiries from U.S. embassies around the world and places them in The Journal of Commerce and on an electronic bulletin board for U.S. exporters to use.

Bill Delphos, an export-financing consultant (see "Unfair Trade," Hotline, April 1991, [Article link]), recommends the FAS's U.S. Supplier List, a database that lists more than 6,800 U.S. food companies interested in exporting. "The database contains comprehensive contact information," he says, "broken down by commodity and country." For more information about Buyer Alert, Trade Leads, or the U.S. Supplier List, contact James H. Johnson, FAS, USDA, Room 4939, South Building, Washington, DC 20250; (202) 447-7103.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture conducts some of its marketing and promotional activities for exporters through four regional associations: the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association (WUSATA; 206-574-2627); the Eastern United States Agricultural and Food Export Council (EUSAFEC; 215-299-3011); the Mid-America International Agri-Trade Council (MIATCO; 708-866-7300); and the Southern United States Trade Association (SUSTA; 504-568-5986). These work with their member states to coordinate regional activities, and with exporters to set up large pavilions representing the region at overseas trade shows.

One good example of how these regional associations can work is Blue Sky Natural Beverage Co. (see "Over There," April 1990, [Article link]). Blue Sky, which now exports 10% of its naturally flavored sodas to Japan, got its first order there after WUSATA took a few cases of its soda to Foodex, a trade show in Japan. "And we continue to get trade leads from WUSATA," says Richard Becker, Blue Sky's president.

The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) advises U.S. companies interested in exporting to Japan. JETRO publishes a daily bulletin in Japan that once a week carries inquiries from companies interested in exporting to Japan. It also maintains a database of Japanese importers and U.S. exporters. Contact the Public Affairs Office, JETRO, McGraw-Hill Building, 1221 Ave. of the Americas, 44th floor, New York, NY 10020; (212) 997-0400.

Finally, after you've exploited the services of governments foreign and domestic, Bill Delphos recommends contacting one of the many food-industry trade groups that actively support the international efforts of their member companies. Try the National Food Processors Association, 1401 New York Ave. NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20005; (202) 639-5900; and the International Dairy Foods Association, 888 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20006; (202) 296-4250. n