Agriculture minister Koya Nishikawa said Wednesday, Sept. 10, that the government will make use of tax incentives and other measures to encourage private companies such as food product manufacturers to set up plants in rural villages.
Speaking at a symposium held in JA Aichi Toyota, an agricultural co-operative in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, Nishikawa told farmers and JA officials that the government will make utmost efforts to double farmers’ incomes.
In order to meet the goal, Nishikawa said it is important to support cooperation between farmers and companies under the “sixth industry” initiative – adding value to farm products by letting farmers engage in processing and marketing – and create new employment in rural areas.
He said the law to facilitate introduction of industries in rural villages, established in 1971 to offer tax incentives to firms which set up business in rural regions, is still viable and can be utilized.
“Farmers and people in agriculture-related industries can work together to promote the ‘sixth industry’ approach, and this will lead to creation of employment opportunities related to the agriculture industry,” Nishikawa said. “I hope to establish such regional communities.”
Regarding the reform of the Japanese agricultural co-operatives (JA) group, Nishikawa stressed that the move is aimed at strengthening competitiveness of primary JAs and agricultural co-operative associations to double farmers’ incomes, and is not intended as a bashing of agricultural co-ops.
As for the restructuring of the Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives (JA-Zenchu), of which the decision was put off, he said the government will take into account the result of the discussions within the JA group to some extent. The final judgment will be made based on whether it will lead to increasing farmers’ incomes, not on whether the organization should be maintained or not.
On the issue of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks, he criticized the United States government’s hard line policy in the bilateral negotiations, saying that Japan does not allow the talks to revert to the zero-tariff stance. In future negotiations, he said, the government will make sure the domestic agricultural industry does not suffer damage. He also said that in addition to the five key farm products, the government will try to conclude talks with special consideration to items which could be hit hard if the tariffs are eliminated, such as beans, liquid eggs and plywood.
(Sept. 11, 2014)