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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 August 15 - 21  > Japan's food self-sufficiency rate remains below 40%
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2018 August 15 - 21 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Japan's food self-sufficiency rate remains below 40%

August 21, 2018

The latest statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries show that Japan's food self-sufficiency rate in fiscal 2017 stood at 38%.

Japan relies on other countries for more than 60% of its food. Amid growing concern over global food shortages due to climate change and rise in the world population, measures to resurrect the agricultural sector centering on small-scale family farmers need to be taken by the Japanese government.

The calorie-based rate of food self-sufficiency in domestic production was 73% in 1965. However, it fell to 38% in 2016. Japan ranks the lowest among developed countries, and the rate in the U.S., France, Germany and the U.K. account for 130%, 127%, 95% and 63%, respectively. (in FY 2013) The Abe government claims that it will increase the rate to 45% by FY 2025, but it has no prospect of achieving this target without a major policy overhaul.

The falling food self-sufficiency rate is mainly attributed to the nation's deteriorating agricultural production infrastructure. The number of domestic farmers in 2017 amounted to 1.2 million, down 430,000 from 2010. During the same period of time, the amount of farmland decreased to 4.44 million hectares from 4.59 million hectares.

Many European nations and the U.S. have implemented measures to restrict imports and improve price- and income-support programs for farmers in order to ensure the continuation of agriculture.

In sharp contrast, the Abe Cabinet has forcibly passed the bill through the Diet to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade agreement. Furthermore, it has accepted more market openings than the TPP level in Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) talks, pushing ahead with a limitless import liberalization.

Discarding small- and mid-sized family farmers, the Abe government has adversely revised conventional systems such as farmland committees, local agricultural committees, and agricultural cooperatives which had long supported Japanese family farmers. In regard to the steep fall in the domestic rice price, the government intends to leave everything up to the market, beginning with the rice crop of this year.

The Japanese Communist Party in its Program focuses on agriculture as the nation's essential production division, holding up a policy to push up the food self-sufficiency rate to above 50% at the earliest possible time. The JCP also calls for the restoration and expansion of the rice-support, income-protection programs as well as for the establishment of fair trade rules which will maintain special safeguards and respect each nation's "food sovereignty".

Past related article:
> Gov’t should be accountable for declining food self-sufficiency rate [August 27, 2017]

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