Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate drops to record low of 37 percent in fiscal 2020

TOKYO, Aug. 26 – Japan’s calorie-based food self-sufficiency rate fell to a record-low 37 percent in fiscal 2020, down 1 percentage point from a year before, due to weak demand for rice, the agriculture ministry said on Aug. 25.

The figure tied with the rate marked in fiscal 1993 and 2018, when the nation had seriously poor rice harvests.

It has become even more difficult for Japan to achieve its target of raising the food self-sufficiency rate to 45 percent by fiscal 2030.

The nation’s food self-sufficiency potential indicator also worsened due to shrinking farmlands.

The food self-sufficiency ratio, which indicates how much of domestic food supplies are covered by domestic production, was 73 percent in calorie terms in fiscal 1965 when the ministry started compiling the data.

The rate showed a declining trend since then to post around 40 percent or less since fiscal 2020.

More specifically, the rate was 37.17 percent in fiscal 2020, lower than 37.37 percent marked in fiscal 1993 and 37.42 percent in fiscal 2018, posting the lowest on record.

The ministry attributes the decline to dropping consumption of rice, the item which can be mostly supplied by domestic production.

Per capita rice supply in fiscal 2020 was 50.7 kilograms, down 2.5 kg from the previous year.

Another factor which pushed down the ratio was a decrease in wheat production.

The nation’s wheat yield per 10 ares harvested in fiscal 2020 was 447 kg, down 8.8 percent from a year before. Although the amount was higher than that of an average year, it was lower than that in fiscal 2019 when the yield was a record high.

Consumption of sugar, starch, oils and fats, whose ingredients are mostly imported, declined as people had less opportunities to buy food gifts amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But it did not contribute to pushing up the self-sufficiency rate.

Meanwhile, the food self-sufficiency rate in terms of the output value was 67 percent, up 1 percentage point from a year before.

The rise is attributable to an increase in the value of domestic production of pork, chicken, vegetables and fruits, as well as a drop in the value of imports of marine products, beef, chicken and pork.

The ministry believes the figure was also affected by the pandemic which made people eat out less and eat at home more.

The food self-sufficiency potential index, which indicates calories of food which can be provided by fully utilizing the nation’s potential production capacity, decreased in fiscal 2020 from the previous year.

The suppliable amount per person per day, under the assumption that rice and wheat are the main crops, was 1,759 kilocalories in fiscal 2020, down 2 kcal from a year before.

The figure is lower than 2,168 kcal, the daily calorie intake generally required for a person to maintain weight.

The government set a target of raising the food self-sufficiency rate to 45 percent in calorie terms and 75 percent in terms of production value by fiscal 2030 in its basic plan for food, agriculture and rural areas.

The agriculture ministry officials said the target is achievable, as the ministry plans to take measures such as shifting supply of wheat, soybeans and vegetables for processed products and restaurants from imports to domestic production.

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