Bee Products

 

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1. Definition of Category: Honeybees, specifically, natural honey, royal jelly, and propolis.

HS Numbers Commodity

0409.00         Natural honey

3001.90         Royal jelly

0511.99         Propolis (solid and raw masses)

2106.90         Propolis (ethanol extracted)

Note: The HS codes, except for 0409.00, include products other than those reported in this guidebook as well. So, this guidebook deals with the statistics of natural honey.

2. Import Trends

(1) Recent Trends in Bee Product Imports

Demand for honey reached a peak in 1990 due to a boom for honey lemon soft drinks, with total imports of natural honey reaching 69,435 tons. After the honey lemon boom, which lasted only one year, imports began falling. In recent years, imports have run at about 30,000-40,000 tons range a year.

Almost imported honey came from China. The result of higher-priced honey produced in China was a sharp decline in import volume. Retail prices have fallen so sharply that many importers find it difficult to raise prices enough to offset the increased prices of honey imported from China.

In 2000, imports of natural honey rose 15.6% from the previous year to 40,077 tons , reflecting the lowest price in recent five years. Import value totaled at ¥4.17 billion, up 0.6% from the previous year.

Fig. 1 Japan's honey (natural) imports

 

  1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Volume Value Volume Value Volume Value Volume Value Volume Value
Natural honey 41,592 6,154 34,318 6,061 29,425 4,529 34,658 4,147 40,077  4,170

There are no customs clearance statistics on imports of royal jelly since there is no independent HS code for that product. Therefore, trends in imports are not clear. Industry association, however, reports that imports have been growing from 398 tons in 1996 to 534 tons in 2000. (see Fig. 3) There are no customs clearance statistics on propolis either due to the lack of an independent HS code, so the trends in imports are unclear.

(2) Imports by Place of Origin

1) Honey

China supplies an overwhelming proportion of Japan’s imports of natural honey – 84.3% on a value basis and 91.7% on a volume basis in 2000. Other exporters of natural honey to Japan include Argentina, Vietnam, Canada, and the United States.

Fig. 2 Principal exporters of honey (natural) to Japan

Trends in import volume by leading exporters Shares of honey (natural) imports in 2000 (value basis)

 

  1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
  Volume Volume Volume Volume Value Volume Value
China

38,410

30,708

27,295

32,012

3,564

36,754

91.7%

3,517

84.3%

Argentina

1,141

1,589

700

1,513

211

1,466

3.7%

180

4.3%

Vietnam

301

239

18

59

5

357

0.9%

28

0.7%

Canada

204

299

283

247

46

357

0.9%

58

1.4%

USA

348

371

260

304

91

304

0.8%

83

2.0%

Others

1,187

1,112

868

522

231

839

2.1%

306

7.3%

TOTAL

41,592

34,318

29,425

34,658

4,147

40,077

100.0%

4,170

100.0%

(EU)

317

324

377

159

74

414

1.0%

135

3.2%

Units: 1,000 tons, ¥ million/Source: Japan Exports and Imports

2) Royal Jelly

According to the data from industry association (National Honey Fair Trade Conference), China supplies 92.9% of Japan’s imports of royal jelly. The remainder is being imported from Taiwan etc.

Fig. 3 Leading exporters of royal jelly to Japan

  1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Volume Volume Volume Volume Volume  

China

338

403

428

466

496

92.9%

Taiwan

54

47

45

46

30

5.5%

Other

5

9

3

7

8

1.6%

TOTAL

398

459

476

520

534

100.0%

Units: tons/Source: National Honey Fair Trade Conference  

3) Propolis

Brazil is believed to be the largest supplier of the propolis being imported to Japan. Other exporters to Japan include Australia, New Zealand, and China. The volume of imports of propolis, however, cannot be determined, so the precise breakdown of imports by supplier is unclear.

(3) Imports’ Market Share in Japan

1) Honey

Japan consumes about 40,000 tons of honey a year. Imports therefore constitute over 90 percent of this. There is little prospect for any increase in domestic production due to the conversion of the agricultural land from which bees make their honey to residential districts, the decline in the absolute number of domestic beekeepers and the aging of the remainder, the lack of younger people willing to take over existing operations, etc. The share of imports is therefore expected to continue rising even further in the future.

2) Royal Jelly

The decline in the number of domestic beekeepers has led to a drop in the production of royal jelly in Japan. Industry sources estimate that over 90 percent of the royal jelly sold in Japan are imported.

Fig.4 Imports´share in the Japanese market

  1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Domestic Product

6,094

5,858

5,802

5,464

4,739

*5,000

Import

432,288

398,164

458,615

475,806

519,757

533,658

TOTAL

438,382

404,022

464,417

481,350

524,496

538,658

Imports´Share

98.6%

98.6%

98.8%

98.8%

99.1%

99.1%

Unit: kg/Source: National Royal Jelly Fair Trade Conference/*Figures for 2000 are estimates.

3) Propolis

There is no information available on the amount of production or import of propolis, so the share of imports is unknown as well. Almost all propolis, however, is believed to be imported.

3. Key Considerations related to Importing

(1) Regulations and Procedural Requirements at the Time of Importation

The laws governing imports of bee products differ depending on the form, the claimed effectiveness, etc. When bee products are imported as food, they are subject to the regulations of the Food Sanitation Law, while when they are imported as a pharmaceutical, they are subjected to the regulations of the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law. At the present time, bee products are mostly imported as food. They are not believed to be imported much as a pharmaceutical.

When honey is imported packed in its natural comb state or as harvested, larvae and honeybees are sometimes included. In this case, inspection under the animal quarantine system is required under provisions of the Domestic Animal Infectious Diseases Control Law.

<Imports as food>

1) Food Sanitation Law

When bee products are imported as food, the procedures under the Food Sanitation Law must be cleared. Under provisions of the Food Sanitation Law, an import notification is required for mineral water being imported for the purpose of sale or for other commercial purposes. Importers are required to submit the completed "Notification Form for Importation of Foods, etc." to the Quarantine Station at the port of entry. A determination is made based on the document examination whether or not an inspection at the bonded area is required.

Note that some countries use tetracycline family antibiotics for preventing contagious diseases among honeybees. Japan does not allow residual antibiotics in any food products -including honey or in royal jelly or propolis - and watches for this closely at the time of import. It does not allow imports of any products in which even small amounts of residual antibiotics are found as a result of inspection.

Fig. 5 Procedures required under the Food Sanitation Law

Prior to importing, the importer may take a sample of forthcoming imports to official laboratories designated by the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare in Japan or in exporting countries. Those test results may be substituted for the corresponding inspection at the port of entry, which expedites the quarantine clearance process.

In addition, importers who wish to submit their notifications by computer may make use of the computerized FAINS (Food Automated Import Inspection and Notification System) for processing import-related documentation. Importers who have the required hardware and software may apply for a security code from the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare to access the system.

<Import as a pharmaceutical>

1) Pharmaceutical Affairs Law

When bee products are imported as a pharmaceutical or ingredients for a pharmaceutical, they are required by the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law to be examined for safety and to obtain license for import or sale as a business. Note that honey covered by the Japan Pharmacopoeia is designated as pharmaceutical not requiring approval and therefore only customs clearance is required.

Further, honey or royal jelly imported as an ingredient for later domestic processing into a cosmetic is not subject to the regulations of the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law at the time of import. For more details, contact the Pharmaceutical Affairs Division in the nearest prefectural government office.

(2) Regulations and Procedural Requirements at the Time of Sale

The sale of bee products as food is subject to the regulations of the Food Sanitation Law, the JAS Law, and the Measurement Law. The sale as a pharmaceutical is subject to the regulations of the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law. Some variety of bee products is subject to provision of the Act Against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations. Used containers of bee products, regardless of usage, are subject to provision of the Containers and Packaging Recycling Law.

<Sale as food>

1) Food Sanitation Law

The Food Sanitation Law sets labeling requirements for bee products sold as food. For details on the labeling requirements. (see 4. Labeling)

2) JAS Law

(Law Concerning Standardization and Proper Labeling of Agricultural and Forestry Products)

The former JAS Law imposed separate product quality labeling standards for each product specified by Cabinet Ordinance. But the JAS Law was amended in 1999 to establish quality labeling standard for all food and beverage products sold to ordinary consumers. (see 4. Labeling)

3) Measurement Law

Bee products sealed in wrapping or containers are required the labeling of the net content to certain accuracy (range of error specified by Cabinet Ordinance).

4) Fair Competition Code under the Act Against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading

Representations

The industry has voluntarily adopted labeling guideline for honey and royal jelly in order to assure consumer product choice availability and preserve fair competition, based on the Act Against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations (Premiums and Representations Act). (see 4. Labeling)

5) Containers and Packaging Recycling Law (Law for Promotion of Sorted Collection and Recycling of Containers and Packaging)

The Containers and Pac kaging Recycling Law was enacted to promote recycling of container and packaging waste materials. It provides for sorting by consumers, sorted collection by municipalities, and product reuse (recycling) by product makers and distributors. These legal obligations went into effect for glass bottles and PET bottles in April 1997, and for paper and plastic containers and pac kaging as of April 2000.

Consequently, bee product importers and resellers incur the obligation for recycling of containers and packaging (although stipulated small-scale importers are exempt). Please consult the competent government agencies listed below for more information.

<Sale as a pharmaceutical>

1) Pharmaceutical Affairs Law

The Pharmaceutical Affairs Law requires prior approval be obtained for bee products sold as a bus iness as pharmaceuticals. This law states that any business that sells pharmaceuticals directly to ordinary consumers, hospitals, clinics, etc. must be licensed to sell such products. However, a sales license is not required when selling to pharmaceutical manufacturers, pharmaceutical sales firms, or pharmacy ow ners.

Applications are to be submitted to the governor of the prefecture in which the business is located, together with documents demonstrating compliance with physical criteria for each store and with personal criteria for the applicant. For more information, please consult the pharmaceutical affairs office in the concerned prefecture for further information.

(3) Competent Agencies

• Food Sanitation Law

Policy Planning Division, Department of Food Sanitation, Pharmaceutical and Medical Safety Bureau, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare
TEL: 03-5253-1111
http://www.mhlw.go.jp

• JAS Law

Standards and Labelling Division, General Food Policy Bureau, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
TEL: 03-3502-8111
http://www.maff.go.jp

• Measurement Law

Measurement and Intellectual Infrastructure Division, Industrial Science and Technology Policy and Environment Bureau, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
TEL: 03-3501-1511
http://www.meti.go.jp

• Pharmaceutical Affairs Law

General Affairs Division, Pharmaceutical and Medical Safety Bureau, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare Evaluation and Licensing Division, Pharmaceutical and Medical Safety Bureau, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare
TEL: 03-5253-1111
http://www.mhlw.go.jp

• Act Against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representation (Fair Competition Code) Consumer Related Trade Division, Trade Practices Department, Fair Trade Commission of Japan
TEL: 03-3581-5471
http://www.jftc.go.jp

• Containers and Packaging Recycling Law

Recycling Promotion Division, Industrial Science and Technology Policy and Environment Bureau, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
TEL: 03-3501-1511
http://www.meti.go.jp

Recycling Promotion Division, Waste Management and Recycling Department, Ministry of Environment
TEL: 03-3581-3351
http://www.env.go.jp

Food Industry Policy Division, General Food Policy Bureau, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
TEL: 03-3502-8111
http://www.maff.go.jp

4. Labeling

(1) Legally Required Labeling

<When sold as food>

All processed food products (sealed in wrapping or containers) manufactured, processed or imported on or after April 1, 2001 must be labeled in accordance with the Processed Food Product Quality Labeling Standards under provisions of the amended JAS Law. When selling regular coffee, instant coffee and coffee extracts or essences sealed in wrapping or containers, following items must be listed all together on the label.

<Labeling items to be listed all together>

1) Product name

2) List of ingredients

3) Net content

4) List of food additives (if used)

5) Date of minimum durability or best-before date

6) Preservation method

7) Country of origin

8) Importer’s name and address

Example labeling for honey

 

Product name: Honey
List of ingredients: Chinese acacia honey
Net contents: 1,000 g
Date of minimum durability: 200.1.22
Importer: XYZ Corp., Ltd.
X-X, YY-machi, ZZ Prefecture
Country of origin: China

Example labeling for royal jelly

Product name: Royal Jelly
Net contents: 100 capsules (each capsule containing equivalent of 0.1 mg of royal jelly)
Ingredients: Royal jelly powder, honeybee pollen
Additives: Soybean oil, beeswax
Storage instructions Store in cold, dark location
Date of minimum durability: 2000.1.22
Vendor: ABC Corp., Ltd.
A-A, BB-machi, CC Prefecture
Importer: XYZ Corp., Ltd.
X-X, YY-machi, ZZ Prefecture
Country of origin: China

Example labeling for propolis

Product name: Propolis
Net contents: 50 mg
List of Ingredients: Propolis
Means of consumption: --------
Storage instructions Keep away from direct sunlight.
Date of minimum durability: 2000.1.22
Ethanol Content: Approximately 10%
Importer: XYZ Corp., Ltd.
X-X, YY-machi, ZZ Prefecture
Country of origin: China

<Sale as a pharmaceutical or cosmetic>

When bee products sold as a pharmaceutical, products must display certain information as specified in the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law. This information, which is required in order to ensure quality and appropriate use and handling, as well as to identify the party responsible for the product, includes the name and address of the manufacturer or importer, the name of the product, the manufacturing number or symbol, product weight, product volume, the number of pills, etc. contained in the package, and so on.

From a standpoint of health and hygiene, the display of false or potentially misleading information on the container or in the attached instructions is prohibited.

(2) Voluntary Labeling Based on Provisions of Law

There are no voluntary labeling based on provisions of laws.

(3) Voluntary Industry Labeling

There are fair trade rules established under the Act Against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations for the sale of honey and royal jelly, which set certain labeling rules.

<Honey>

The National Honey Fair Trade Conference has established the Fair Competition Code Concerning Representation of Honey, which set information to be labeled and standards for labeling, and prohibits mislabeling products, which are deemed to be labeled in accordance with these rules, are allowed to be sold with the fair trade mark of the conference on their containers or wrapping.

For details, contact: National Honey Fair Trade Conference
TEL: 03-3279-0893

Honey fair trade mark

<Royal Jelly>

The National Royal Jelly Fair Trade Conference has established similar Fair Competition Code regarding the labeling of royal jelly, which set information to be labeled and standards for labeling, and prohibits mislabeling.

Products, which are deemed to be labeled in accordance with these rules, are allowed to be sold with the certificate of the conference on their containers or wrapping.

For details, contact: National Royal Jelly Fair Trade Conference
TEL:03-3561-5556
http://www.rjkoutori.or.jp

Royal jelly certificate

<Other voluntary standards>

The Japan Health Food & Nutrition Food Association and the Japan Propolis Conference have set their own standards for manufacturing processes and ingredients and their own labeling requirements for propolis. These organizations allow the following marks or certificates of approval to be attached to the containers or wrapping of products which are deemed to meet their standards.

Contacts:
Japan Health Food & Nutrition Food Association
TEL: 03-3268-3131
http://www.health-station.com/jhnfa

National Honey Fair Trade Conference
TEL: 03-3384-8964
http://www.propolis.or.jp

Note that some honey is sold with voluntary warnings not to feed it to children less than one year of age due to the fact that honey sometimes causes infantile botulism.

5. Taxes

(1) Customs Duties

Customs duties on bee products are as follows. Other bee products are duty free.

Fig. 4 Customs duties on bee products

HS Nº. Description Rate of Duty (%)
General WTO Preferential Temporary
409 Natural Honey 30% 25.5%    
2106.90-299 Food preparatioms excluding protein concentrates and textured protein substances (Propolis, reined by ethanol) 25% 15% 10% (*Free)  

(2) Consumption Tax

(CIF + Customs duty) x 5%

6. Product Characteristics

1) Natural Honey

Natural honey means honey free from added sugar or other substances. Honey differs in flavor, color, etc. according to the flowers from which the honey was made. There are reportedly as many as 300 species of flowers used for producing honey. The preferred species differ by country. The Japanese prefer relatively light color mild flavor honey such as Chinese milk vetch, false acacia, Japanese horse chestnut, and clover honey, while the Germans and Russians consider honey with strong fragrance to be the best quality. The French on the other hand prefer the brown colored buckwheat honey. In general, black colored honey tends to be strong both in smell and flavor, but the black color is due to the mineral content and therefore supposedly means the honey is that much more nutritious.

In view of the recent health and nature boom in Japan, interest in honey is rising in Japan as well.

Honey is being increasingly used for industrial applications such as confectionery, bread, beverages, and other processed foods, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics. Further, in recent years, comb honey, that is, honey packed in the natural comb state, has been gradually finding acceptance among the consumers and has been growing in sales. Comb honey from New Zealand and Canada is particularly famous.

Chinese honey, which constitutes the majority of the honey being imported, is almost all imported in the raw form and is filtered and refined in Japan to make the final product.

2) Royal Jelly

Royal jelly, the food for queen bees, is the whitish sticky fluid secreted from the pharyngeal glands of young worker bees. It has a distinctive aroma and a tangy acidic taste and is also known in Japan as the "milk of kings". Royal jelly is sold in three types: raw, dried, and prepared. There are standards for the properties and composition for each of these. Royal jelly is said to contain protein, minerals, vitamins, panthotenic acid, etc. and is being marketed as a nutritional enriched or other pharmaceutical and as an enriched food. Recently, various products have been developed containing royal jelly such as beverages, honey, and cosmetics.

3) Propolis

Propolis is the reddish sticky substance produced by honeybees by mixing their salivary secretions with the resin collected from the bark and young buds of the eucalyptus, pine, oak, beech, poplar, and other trees. They use it to fill crevices in their hives and strengthen the cells and to sterilize and decontaminate the hive.

Propolis has created a stir in Japan as well due to this antibacterial action. Propolis is harvested from the hives of honeybees. The harder it is dried, the better the quality is considered. The propolis produced from the state of Minas Gerais of Brazil is particularly highly regarded.

It is also being imported from Australia, New Zealand, and China. Most of the propolis sold in Japan is imported in the raw mass form and then refined by extraction to make the final powder, liquid, or capsule product that is shipped to the market.

7. Domestic Distribution System and Business Practices

(1) Domestic Market Conditions

1) Natural Honey

Consumption of honey may be divided into consumption in the general home (so-called table honey) and industrial consumption. The current ratio is about 6 to 4. Demand for table honey is believed to be generally stable, but at one time is estimated by the industry to have dipped to 40 percent of total demand.

This was around 1990 when demand for industrial use honey soared due to the boom in honey-flavored beverages. The per capita consumption of honey in Japan is said to be about 300 grams.

This is much smaller than the 800 to 100 grams of the US. and the 1500 to 2000 grams of Germany.

The industry, however, believes that demand for industrial use honey can be expected to grow in the future due to the greater number of applications for which it is being used in the recent health boom.

In 2000, more and more confections makers and food service establishments had added natural honey to their ingredient lists and menus. With signs of yet another natural honey boom apparently at hand, expectations are that imports will increase.

2) Royal Jelly

Royal jelly has been used for a long time now for its nutritional qualities. Recently, however, cosmetics, beverages, and a variety of other products including royal jelly have been developed as well.

The market has reportedly grown in size along with this. The National Royal Jelly Fair Trade Conference currently counts 325 member firms.

3) Propolis

Propolis became famous in Japan after its effects were announced at an international apiculture conference held in Nagoya in 1985. Reflecting the recent health boom, the market appears to be growing.

The Japan Propolis Fair Trade Conference currently counts about 250 member firms. Propolis is sometimes used in the western countries as a folk cure, but has not been recognized yet as a medicine in Japan.

(2) Distribution Channels

1) Natural Honey

In Japan, the majority of even the honey used in the general homes is first imported in drums and other large containers like with honey for industrial use and then repacked domestically by local packers (honey refiners/processors). Little is imported in the final bottle or canned form. Honey for general home consumption is mainly sold at retailers, supermarkets, and department stores. Honey is not a high turnover product, so while also sold at convenience stores etc., the volume of sales appears to be small.

Small brands of honey, much of which may be found at health food stores etc., account for about 30 percent of the market.

Fig. 7 Example of distribution system for honey

2) Royal Jelly

Royal jelly is mainly imported by trading companies in the raw form through some is freeze-dried as well. The imported royal jelly is then prepared or processed into the final product by domestic manufacturers. Some manufacturers and processors have created their own sales companies and are engaged in mail order sales or door to door sales.

3) Propolis

Propolis is mainly imported by trading companies in the form of raw masses. Some domestic vendor’s import in the form of direct products, but these appears to be small in number. The raw masses of imported propolis are refined by extraction by domestic manufacturers and processors to make final products, which are sold through agent’s etc. Industry sources believe that very little is being sold by mail order.

Fig. 8 Example of distribution system for royal jelly and propolis

(3) Key Considerations for entering the Japanese Market

The import and sale of bee products as food are regulated under the Food Sanitation Law, etc., while the import and sale of bee products as medicinal goods are regulated under the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law. Therefore, full knowledge of these laws is required.

Note further that the enforcement of the Product Liability Law in Japan means that importers, vendors, etc. are liable for detrimental effects on the health caused by defective products, so full care is required in quality control.

8. After-Sales Service

In general, there is no equivalent to after-sales service. Manufacturers and importers are, however, obliged to take speedy action if there is a potential problem in the pharmaceutical or other product such as notification to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, determination of the cause, and remedial measures.

9. Related Product Categories

Two of the related products of bee products are honeybees and pollen. Imported honeybees are subjected to animal quarantine under the Domestic Animal Infectious Diseases Control Law due to the existence of American foulbrood and other contagious diseases of bees. Imports of pollen are subject to the restrictions under the Plant Quarantine Law and the Food Sanitation Law.

10. Direct Imports by Individuals

There are no special legal regulations governing personal imports. The restrictions under the Food Sanitation Law are also waived for imports of a scope deemed for personal use not intended for sale. When importing bee products as medicinal goods, however, there are restrictions on quantities of import under the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law. Further, any one advertising products falling under the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law, taking orders for them, and importing them for a fee will be deemed to be importing as a business and violating the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law.

11. Related Organizations

National Honey Fair Trade Conference
TEL: 03-3279-0893

Japan Beekeeping Association TEL: 03-3291-8628
http://group.lin.go.jp/bee

Japan Honey Cooperative Association
TEL: 03-3934-1604

Japan Honey Importer's Association
TEL: 03-3219-3040

National Royal Jelly Fair Trade Conference
TEL: 03-3561-5556
http://www.rjkoutori.or.jp

Japan Health Food Association
TEL: 03-3268-3131
http://www.health-station.com/jhnfa

Japan Propolis Conference
TEL: 03-3384-8964
http://www.propolis.or.jp