Exporting To and From Japan

If you would like to export organic products to Japan, CCOF can help. On September 26, 2013, the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) and the Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (MAFF) signed a historic organic standards equivalency arrangement, going in to effect January 1, 2014. This has eased the process for organic exports and eliminated differences in organic standards between the two nations.

Additionally, in 2013, MAFF also created new opportunities for the use of Japan’s organic seal, called the “JAS seal.”

Under the terms of this agreement:

  • Products from the United States that are certified to NOP standards will be recognized as equivalent to the Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS) and may be shipped to Japan. Each shipment must be accompanied by a TM-11 certifier-issued import certificate.
  • Livestock and alcohol products are not covered under this agreement.
  • Product from Japan that is certified to the JAS Organic Program may be shipped to the United States and marketed as organic. Each shipment will require a Certificate of Inspection from the Japanese certifier.
  • Products shipped from the United States and sold as organic in Japan are required to display the JAS seal. The seal may be applied in Japan by a JAS-certified importer or applied by U.S. companies through a consignment contract with a JAS-certified importer.
  • Use of the USDA organic seal is voluntary as long as the products meet USDA labeling requirements. The accredited certifier must also be identified on the label.

You need to enroll in the Global Market Access (GMA) program for Japan export if you do any of the following:

  • Want to maximize market opportunities and ensure your products will be accepted by most foreign markets and buyers
  • Export CCOF certified organic products to Japan from the United States
  • Design labels for products that will be sold in Japan
  • Sell CCOF certified organic products to any buyer who requires international verification certification

Learn more about the CCOF Global Market Access program.

Additional equivalency arrangement information:

Labeling Requirements and Use of the JAS Seal

All products shipped to Japan under the U.S.-MAFF Organic Equivalency Arrangement must meet the JAS labeling requirements. Send all labels to CCOF for approval prior to printing. To learn more, read MAFF’s JAS labeling requirements and the CCOF International Market Labeling Guide.

U.S. Exporters can meet the JAS labeling requirements in three ways.

  1. Exporters who have a JAS Seal Consignment Contract with a JAS-certified importer may apply the JAS seal directly to their products. This allows for pre-printed labels for bulk or retail products and more effective recognition of organic status within Japan. CCOF can help you navigate the consignment contract and provide required reporting under the JAS system. Note, the JAS seal is unique to each JAS certifier.
  2. Exporters who do not have a JAS Seal Consignment Contract with a JAS-certified importer cannot apply the JAS seal to their products prior to export. A JAS-certified importer must import the product, and that importer must apply the seal to the product prior to sale within Japan.
  3. Exporters can obtain direct JAS certification through a JAS-accredited certifier. With direct JAS certification, the exporter can apply the JAS seal directly to their product prior to shipping without a Consignment Contract. CCOF has observed that this option is time consuming and costly but will allow the ability to use only one seal version on all products.

JAS Seal Consignment Contract

U.S. exporters can sign a JAS Seal Consignment Contract with a JAS-certified importer to apply the JAS seal to USDA NOP-certified organic products in the United States. Under this system, the U.S. exporter must identify a responsible employee, undergo some minor training, and maintain records of the number of seals applied to products and the number of JAS-labeled products shipped to Japan.

With enrollment in the GMA Japan export program, we will guide you through the Consignment Contract process and facilitate maintenance of the required records through the exporting process. CCOF has analyzed the process and provides a variety of tools and processes based on MAFF’s instructions. See below.

Consignment Contract Process

  • Contact your JAS-certified importer in Japan and sign the JAS Seal Consignment Contract. Send a copy of the signed contract to CCOF.
  • Complete the training for attaching JAS seals and send the signed documents to your importer for their records. Send a copy to CCOF.
  • Your importer will send their JAS seal for you to use on your products.
    • Each JAS seal is specific to the name of the importer’s certifier, so you must be careful to apply the correct seal if you have multiple contracts.
    • You are only allowed to apply the JAS seal on products destined to the specific importer you have subcontracted with.
  • Submit the new labels for international sales to CCOF.
  • Apply the JAS seal to the products that your importer has requested.
  • Use the Report of Attached JAS Seals to document how many seals were attached for each shipment. Send this document to CCOF with your TM-11 request.
  • Send your shipment to your importer along with a TM-11 document for export to Japan and the report of attached JAS seals. CCOF will keep copies of these documents for your recordkeeping requirement.

Consignment Contract Process Graphic


Applying the JAS Seal through Direct JAS Certification

Getting certified to the JAS standard allows you as a U.S. exporter to directly apply the JAS seal before exporting your product to Japan. CCOF offers a program to help facilitate your JAS certification with our partner certifier in Japan, Japan Certification Services (JCS). With the JAS certification program, CCOF will:

  • Facilitate completion of the initial application for JAS certification and send to JCS for processing
  • Once the application is accepted, a CCOF inspector will inspect your operation to the JAS organic standards.
  • Facilitate ongoing paperwork completion and annual inspections to the JAS organic standards

Information for U.S. Operations Shipping Products to Japan

Export Requirements

In order to export your product to Japan, you will need to be enrolled in CCOF’s Global Market Access program for MAFF/USDA compliance. Once your product is in the program with a status of compliant, you can sell your goods to Japan, following all labeling requirements.

Export Documents

You are required to send an export certificate, also referred to as a certificate of import, with each shipment of product bound for Japan, stating specific details about the shipment. You must enroll in the GMA Japan export program to request an export certificate. For additional information on exporting, check out our exporter guidance information page.

Importing Product from Japan

Would you like to import Japanese organic product or ingredients? Japanese organic products sold in the United States must meet the following requirements:

  • Products must be either produced within Japan or have had final processing or packaging occur within Japan.
  • Products must meet USDA NOP labeling requirements.
  • Products must travel with an import certificate that has been completed by a MAFF-accredited certifying agent.