Awamori shipments down for 12th year in row

The Okinawa Awamori Distillers’ Association announced Mar. 31st that its member companies had shipped a total of 18,964 kiloliters of Awamori in 2016, a 2.9 percent decrease from the previous year.

This volume has decreased for twelve consecutive years, and 2016 was the second year in a row that the total has dropped below the 20,000-kiloliter mark. The amount is 67.5 % of the peak year of 2004, when the shipments totaled 27,688 kiloliters.

Misako Tamanaha, the chairman of the association, said at a press conference in the association office, “One cannot name a single reason for the trend. The decrease highlights the severity of the alcohol market in all Japan, and because of that, the shipments have been on downward trend for twelve consecutive years.”

15,913 kiloliters of the total was shipped within Okinawa Prefecture, a decrease of 2.8% from the previous year. 2,780 kiloliters was sent to other prefectures in Japan, a decrease of 3.4% from the previous year.

But while the total shipments were down, the gross production volume was 19,858 kiloliters that is a 3.0% more than the previous year. According to Association Senior Managing Director Nobutaka Tsuchiya, the reason for the disparity is that, “Every awamori distillery is trying to commoditize aged awamori (kusu) that has aged over three years, so they keep it in warehouses to mature.”

Tsutomu Oshiro, the vice deputy chairman of the association, explained about the factors for the decrease in shipments, “Recently, Alcohol market in Japan is declining nationally because the population declines and ages, and young people lack interest in drinking alcohol. Also, other alcoholic drinks, such as Japanese sake and western liquors, are sold in restaurants and mass retailers in Okinawa, and it looks that diversification of the market is advancing.”

The association is making marketing plans to improve the situation, such as providing sightseeing tours to awamori distilleries and cooperation between each awamori makers, making more varieties of the product and providing awamori cocktails to attract ladies and young people.