August 13, 2012
Akahata editorial (excerpts)
A stable food supply is essential to people’s lives, and domestic agriculture is its very foundation. Amid mounting concern over the sharp rise in global food prices, it is the Japanese government’s responsibility to drastically raise its food self-sufficiency rate.
Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate on a calorie basis was 39% in 2011, the agriculture ministry announced on August 10, indicating that decline of Japanese agriculture continues. The figure was 60% in 1970, fell below 50% in 1989, and dropped under 40% in the past two years.
In 2009, the food self-sufficiency rate was 130% in the United States, 121% in France, and 93% in Germany. The self-sufficiency in Japan is abnormally low among major nations because successive governments have opened Japan’s food market to other countries and increased dependence on food imports under the pressures from the U.S. government and Japanese business circles.
It is natural for Japanese people to demand a higher rate of food self-sufficiency. The Democratic Party of Japan in its election manifesto in 2009 promised to raise the food self-sufficiency rate. The next year, Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio announced a plan to increase the rate to 50% by 2020.
However, the current Noda Cabinet eagerly seeks to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade agreement. Participation in the TPP will further accelerate the import of agricultural products and negatively affect the farm industry in Japan. The agriculture ministry estimates that the food self-sufficiency rate will decrease to 13%.
Unusual weather conditions such as droughts and floods are increasing worldwide, presumably due to global warming, and food prices will fluctuate violently. Japan’s food supply system, which largely depends on imported food, may collapse.
To revive Japanese agriculture, it is essential to maintain border measures including tariffs and import restrictions, and it is important to secure “food sovereignty,” the right of countries to define their own agricultural policies. It is unacceptable to join the TPP which contradicts the very basis of this right.