Accessing the Japanese Market

There are two routes to the Japanese organic market:

  • Shipping Japan Agriculture Standard (JAS) certified products
  • Shipping your National Organic Program (NOP) certified products under the U.S.-Japan Equivalence Arrangement

Whichever option you choose, QAI can help your products get to the Japanese organic market successfully with our cost-effective programs.

Each route has its advantages and disadvantages. Factors such as the volume and frequency of your exports, your budget and your importer's certification status all need to be taken into consideration when deciding which route is most appropriate for your operation. Please contact QAI for further details.

JAS Certification and U.S.-Japan Equivalence

In June 2001, Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forest, and Fishery (MAFF) amended the Japan Agriculture Standard (JAS) to include the standards for organic production, repacking and processing.

For the JAS certification standards, please refer to "Standards" and "Technical Criteria" at the MAFF website for each certification category, which include processors, producers, repackers of processed product and repackers of agricultural products.

QAI has created convenient tables for JAS certified operations which list the substances that are permitted for use in the production of JAS certified organic products based on the operation type and type of product being handled.




U.S-Japan Equivalence Agreement

On September 26, 2013, the United States and Japan announced a bilateral organic equivalence arrangement. While this partnership is focused on plant-based organic products, it also clarifies how meat, dairy products, alcoholic beverages and other products that are not covered by the Japanese organic standards can enter the Japanese organic market.

As of January 1, 2014, all certified organic plant (including fungi) and plant-based processed products, which have a minimum of 95 percent organic content and are produced, processed, packaged, or labeled in the U.S. or Japan, may access either market. There are no critical variances to this equivalence arrangement.

NOP certified products exported to Japan under the equivalence arrangement must meet all Japanese organic labeling requirements including the use of the Japanese Agricultural Standard (JAS) organic seal. The JAS seal can be applied by the NOP certified U.S. operator under a consignment contract with a certified JAS importer or, alternatively, the NOP certified U.S. operator may work with a JAS certified importer who will import the product and then apply the JAS seal to the products upon arrival in Japan. A TM-11 form (export certificate) will still be required to ship NOP certified plants (including fungi) and plant-based processed products to Japan under the equivalence arrangement.

NOP certified products destined for Japan are required to be labeled in compliance with the Japanese organic regulations; however the U.S.-based facility’s NOP certification body will not be responsible for monitoring Japanese label compliance. This oversight will be the responsibility of the Japanese certified importer and its certification body.

Other USDA-certified organic products not covered by the equivalence arrangement, such as meat, dairy products and alcoholic beverages, will continue to enjoy access to the Japanese market. These JAS excluded products must be NOP certified and comply with the USDA organic regulations, including labeling requirements for the use of the USDA organic seal. They may also be labeled with the word “organic” in English or Japanese. While NOP certified products outside the scope of the equivalence arrangement may be sold as organic in Japan, they may not bear the JAS seal. A TM-11 form will not be required to export NOP certified products to Japan that are outside the JAS scope.

Further information about exporting product under the Equivalence Agreement can be found on the NOP’s website on the Information for International Trade Partners page and in QAI’s December 2013 newsletter.

Canadian Operators Seeking Access to Japanese Market

Japan and Canada do not have an equivalence agreement in place at this time. In order for a Canadian operator to access the Japanese organic market, it will need to be fully JAS certified. Canada and Japan are engaged in equivalence agreement discussions; however, the status of these discussions has not yet been released.

Regulation Amendment of Importance

Similar to the USDA's National Organic Program, the JAS standard is reviewed every five years. The standard was last revised in 2012. Slight updates are occasionally made in between the five-year reviews. QAI will inform clients of these changes as they occur.

The most current English versions of the JAS Standards and Technical Criteria can be found on the MAFF website.

Labeling to the Standard

Only operations certified by an accredited JAS certifier can apply the JAS seal, or those operations that have a consignment contract with a JAS certified importer to apply the JAS seal. The Ecocert JAS seal is required to be affixed to all products JAS certified through QAI to be in compliance with JAS standards and to be sold as organic in Japan. Before the JAS seal is affixed, approved and documented JAS grading inspections must occur.

The JAS seal must:

  • Appear on all retail products sold as organic in Japan
  • Appear on all packaged products sold as "JAS certified"
  • Appear on all possible shipping documents, including the invoice for unlabeled bulk products (only processors and producers are allowed to label the invoice instead of actual product)
  • Include "Ecocert" below the JAS mark


  1. A is more than 5mm
  2. B=2A, D=3/10 x C
  3. Height D=E
  4. Color is not regulated

The seal signifies a cloud covering the sun with a leaf in the middle.

Additional Resources

For more information, contact Leslie Claypool at 858-200-9709 or lclaypool@qai-inc.com.