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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 August 21 - 27  > Decline in food self-sufficiency rate points to failure of Abe’s agriculture policy
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2019 August 21 - 27 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Decline in food self-sufficiency rate points to failure of Abe’s agriculture policy

August 22, 2019

Akahata editorial (excerpts)

The Agriculture Ministry recently announced that Japan’s calorie-based food self-sufficiency rate in 2018 stood at 37%, down one percentage point from the previous year. More precisely, the percentage was a record low of 37.33%, failing to reach 37.37% in 1993 when Japanese agricultural production suffered from severe cold weather.

The Abe government in 2015 set a goal of increasing the self-sufficiency rate to 45% by 2025. Given the decrease in the rate, the government has little prospect of achieving its goal. Its food and farm policies should be reviewed.

As a major reason for the decline in the food self-sufficiency rate in 2018, the Agriculture Ministry insists that it is because wheat and soy bean crop yields were poor due to unseasonable weather. However, weather factors do not explain the long-term downward trend of the sufficiency rate. It is increasingly clear that the productive capability of Japan’s agriculture is diminishing.

Japan’s farmers are aging and there are too few younger farmers to replace them. As a result, Japan has 32% less agriculture management entities than ten years ago. The number of persons who are mainly engaged in farming decreased from 2.05 million in 2010 to 1.4 million in 2019 and 42% were 70 years old or older. The percentage of uncultivated agricultural land has been on the rise and now stands at 10%.

In the last six and a half years, the Abe government concluded the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement and the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement, which led to an increase in imports of agricultural products. What Abe terms “aggressive agriculture policies” favored larger-scale farm businesses which consequently pushed small- and medium-sized farmers out of business and led to a large area of uncultivated farm land, especially in mountainous and semi-mountainous areas. If the Abe government, which is subservient to the demands of the Trump administration, concludes a bilateral trade agreement with the U.S., Japan’s agriculture will be sold off to the U.S. and it will be impossible to increase Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate.

It is necessary for the government to end the open-door policy for foods and restore its food sovereignty. The urgent need is to implement measures allowing for diversity in types of farms regardless of size, such as measures to help utilize all farm land in all geographic conditions, improve financial conditions of farmers through various means including guaranteed prices or incomes programs, and correct the current situation so that young farmers and family farmers can continue their businesses.

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