With the help of a $784,902 grant from USDA’s Market Access Program to promote US organic products abroad next year, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) is ready to launch a new strategy to promote organic products and educational programs in Japan and around the world.

Taka Yamaguchi, executive officer of Organic Japan, says part of his ambitious plan is to have athletes in the 2020 Summer Olympics eat organic. He described this plan to more than 100 of Japan’s top grocery retailers, food importers and distributors at a recent Organic Trade Association-sponsored seminar in Japan. The seminar was one of two OTA programs that brought industry and government leaders together in Tokyo and Osaka to learn about US organic products and updates on a bilateral trade deal that will help bring organic products to Japan.

According to OTA, the association will showcase US organic brands at food shows around the globe and hold international seminars on organic regulatory issues. The association will also host trade missions to connect foreign buyers and domestic suppliers and assist US organic exporters with OTA’s online US Organic Export Directory and Global Organic Trade Guide.

“Exports are increasingly important to US producers and handlers. The organic industry is invested in building the relationships and the US organic brand awareness required for long-term export growth,” says Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of OTA. “The industry is poised to fully utilize the much-welcomed grant assistance from USDA provided through its Market Access Program.” OTA will also attend trade fairs and shows in Germany, South Korea, California and multiple cities across Europe to lead large-scale promotions of organic products.

According to a recent OTA survey, the US organic industry shows more than 60 percent of organic stakeholders are involved in the export market, with an additional 20 percent reporting they plan on getting involved in the international arena.  About 50 percent report they have been selling their products on internationally for five years or less. Respondents say one of the biggest export barriers is the inability to locate appropriate buyers.

Demand for organic products is exploding, with US sales in 2013 hitting a record $35.1 billion. Organic demand has experienced similar growth around the world, OTA says, with US organic exports reaching $537 million last year, up 20 percent from 2012.

“Healthy growth in organic demand is occurring in all regions, from Japan, South Korea and China to Canada, the European Union and the Middle East,” says Monique Marez, OTA’s senior international trade manager. “Our goal is to help organic producers and distributors explore and connect with these developing and often untapped markets and educate consumers everywhere about the benefits of organic.”