By Christine Lim
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 10 (Bernama) -- Saitama Prefecture, which is ranked fifth in terms of population and economic productivity among the prefectures of Japan, is exploring further investment opportunities in Malaysia in the halal food and automated machinery industries.
Governor Motohiro Ono said there are currently 20 companies from Saitama with established investments in the food manufacturing, automation and electronics sectors in Malaysia.
“There are many companies from Saitama that want to enter the Malaysian market by introducing commodities and exploring opportunities to invest,” he told Bernama during the “Sedap! SAITAMA: Exhibition featuring food and sake from Saitama” event held in Kuala Lumpur recently.
Ono was on a three-day economic mission to Malaysia from Nov 7, 2023, to enhance bilateral economic relations.
According to the governor, this was the first time that Saitama Prefecture dispatched an economic mission to Malaysia.
During this trip, Ono has also met officers from the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) to discuss the possibility of extending bilateral relationship.
“Attracting investments and people from all over the world, Malaysia has the fastest growing economy amongst the ASEAN member states and is projected to expand even further in the future,” he said.
He emphasised that Saitama, located just north of Japan’s capital Tokyo, has much to offer to Malaysia with its current gross domestic product of US$161 billion (US$1=RM4.68) and thriving food industry.
“Saitama has always had many food manufacturers and our food industry is ranked second in the country in terms of shipment of manufactured goods,” Ono said.
In addition, he said, Saitama is also rich in agriculture with its many rivers and fertile land and is one of the leading producers of wheat, vegetables and sake in Japan.
According to the Japan External Trade Organisation’s (Jetro) website, Saitama Prefecture has 27,000 manufacturing establishments and ranks sixth in Japan in terms of value of shipments of manufactured goods.
There are also companies with advanced technological capabilities for castings, moulds and equipment.
In the aerospace and automotive sectors, Saitama ranks seventh in Japan in terms of shipments and value-added transportation equipment manufacturing.
Saitama takes sixth spot in Japan for the medical, health and beauty industries in terms of value of production of pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
Ono emphasised that Saitama is the country’s leading prefecture when it comes to the shipment value of noodle products such as udon.
“It is also home to many local specialities such as Sayama tea, one of Japan’s finest tea and strawberries that were awarded the top prize in a national contest this year,” he added.
Ono beckoned Malaysians to visit and discover all that Saitama has to offer besides food.
‘’We have popular tourist attractions such as the Moomin theme park from Finland, the first of its kind overseas; the Tokorozawa Sakura Town, which is Japan’s largest pop culture entertainment complex; and the Bonsai Art Museum, with trees that are hundreds of years old,” he remarked.
Meanwhile, Japan’s ambassador to Malaysia, Katsuhiko Takahashi, said the popularity of Japanese cuisine has surged globally and in the context of Malaysia, exports of Japan’s agricultural, forestry, fisheries and food products to Malaysia have tripled over the past five years.
“In addition, the number of Japanese restaurants in Malaysia has shown a significant increase, with approximately 1,900 establishments in the country,” he said in his opening remarks at the exhibition.
While the Malaysian Chinese have been the main consumers of Japanese food so far, Takahashi said, it has recently begun to spread to Malays as well.
Momotaro Foods Sdn Bhd, which is owned by a leading Japanese traditional noodle producer based in Saitama, aims to obtain halal certification for its noodle factory in Seri Kembangan, Selangor, in the next five years.
“We have been supplying to supermarkets and Japanese restaurants in Malaysia. The materials for making noodles at the factory in Malaysia are different from the production facility in Saitama, but the production process is the same for both locations,” managing director Ikuo Koyama told Bernama.
Momotaro Shokuhin Co, Ltd, the holding company in Saitama, has established the Malaysia-based Momotaro Foods and opened a Japanese noodle restaurant in Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur, in 1992.
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