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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 August 23 - 29  > Gov’t should be accountable for declining food self-sufficiency rate
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2017 August 23 - 29 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Gov’t should be accountable for declining food self-sufficiency rate

August 27, 2017
Akahata editorial (excerpt)

Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate keeps dropping. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries this month announced that the rate fell to 38% in 2016, down by one percentage point from a year earlier.

The food self-sufficiency rate, which was 73% in 1965, has been declining for decades. The Abe government in 2015 set a target of increasing the percentage to 45%, but there is little hope in attaining the target.

The food self-sufficiency rate is 130% for the U.S., 95% for Germany, and 63% for the U.K. Japan’s figure is the lowest level among developed countries. Concerning staple foods, Japan produces only 28% of the grains that it consumes. No other country with a population of over 100 million has a grain self-sufficiency rate of 30% or less.

The world population keeps increasing. Economic development in developing countries is boosting food demand. The frequency of extreme weather events is increasing due to climate change. These factors combined, a global-scale food shortage is becoming a real possibility.

Under successive governments’ agriculture and trade policies, the farming sector in Japan has been faced with ever increasing hardships. The latest statistics show that the number of farmers decreased to 1.5 million, down 80,000 in a single year. The total area of farmland is now at 70% of its peak in 1961.

Japanese farmers have been devastated by cheap imports of agricultural products under trade liberalization policies. The Abe government is attempting to further eliminate trade barriers through the TPP and Japan-EU EPA and further promote agricultural imports. On the other hand, the Abe government forces farmers to increase “international competitiveness” through expanding their farm sizes and through cost-cutting efforts.

The general public calls for the promotion of agriculture. Various opinion polls indicate that 90% of respondents say that they want their food to be produced in Japan as much as possible. The government should improve subsidy programs to stabilize prices of farm products and farmers’ income. In addition, it should draw up a policy for future farmers which enables family farmers to continue farming regardless of their farm size. It is also essential to establish trade rules that ensure food sovereignty for each country.

Past related articles:
> Farmers urge the gov’t not to reach basic agreement with EU on EPA [ July 4, 2017]
> Abe spreads myth that farmers will benefit from export promotion [ June 28, 2016]
> Gov’t should make efforts to raise food self-sufficiency rate [ August 13, 2012]
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