THE Taoiseach and Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney met today with members of the Japan Racing Association (JRA) as part of a government initiative to break into the highly lucrative Japanese horse racing industry.
At present there are significant levies in place of up to €30,000 for each horse imported into the country, and it is understood that the Irish government are negotiating for the scrapping of this prohibitive tariff.
Horse racing is a massive money-spinner in Japan, raising considerable revenue. The betting turnover from 23,758 races across the country in 2012 was €27.11 billion, and the average prize money per race is €225,000.
"There is potential to develop a significant market, but at the moment there is a deliberate policy to make it quite difficult to bing horses into the country," said Minister Coveney. He added that the number of Japanese travelling to Ireland to buy thoroughbreds is on the rise. At a breeding stock public auction last week in Goffs, Japanese buyers purchased almost €1.9m worth of bloodstock. "Their spending power is huge," he added.
Ireland with 7,546 foals registered in 20122 is the biggest producer of thoroughbred foals in Europe and is the fourth largest in the world behind the US, Australia and Argentina. Also the Irish thoroughbred industry has a high standing globally - four of the most recent six Epsom Derby winners were Irish-trained, and nine of the ten Classic races held in Ireland and the UK this year have been won by horses foaled in Ireland.
Also during the meeting with the JRA today, the Taoiseach and Minister lobbied for Irish businessman Harry Sweeney who has applied for a syndicate licence. Mr Sweeney is the first foreigner ever to be granted permission by the Japanese government to buy agricultural land, and is the first westerner ever to be granted a JRA owners licence, but is seeking to establish a new Racing Club in Japan.