【News】 Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks – farmers’ voices (June 26, 2015)


The U.S. Senate voted to pass the Trade Promotion Authority bill, giving President Barack Obama fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks. Now the talks are in its crucial stage, with a possibility of being completed by the end of July. Farmers have shown increasing concern over the future of regional agriculture and are calling on the government to keep the Diet resolution which is a “promise to the people of Japan” to protect the nation’s key farm items.

*Takahiro Orimo, 42, pig breeder of Fujioka, Gunma Prefecture. Keeps 200 sows and ships 4,000 pigs annually.

I am really shocked to see the TPP negotiations move towards conclusion. Along with cuts in pork tariffs, we will have an influx of cheap imported pork, causing oversupply in the domestic market and further competition between domestic and imported pork. I believe the current price of domestic pork is appropriate, but a price decline is unavoidable. I have worries over whether I can continue my business. I feel that people other than those in the agriculture-related business have little interest in the TPP talks. But it is not only the agriculture sector which will be affected by the TPP talks. Media firms should report more on farmers’ views and the danger of what the talks could bring about in order to arouse public discussion.

*Yoshitaka Onishi, 47, rice farmer of Oyabe, Toyama Prefecture. Grows 32 hectares of table rice and 6 hectares of rice for feed.

We are trying to balance supply and demand of rice by increasing production of rice for feed under the government’s policy. But our efforts will come to nothing if a special import quota for U.S. rice is set based on negotiations under the TPP. This year, I am growing 6 hectares of rice for feed to offer to poultry farmers, but I am concerned over the TPP’s effect on local recycling-based agriculture. The Diet resolution is a promise to the people of Japan. The government must keep the resolution. Our business has been very difficult due to lowering rice prices and direct payment subsidies to rice farmers being halved last year. Some people are giving up farming because they cannot make profits. The government should listen to farmers’ voices sincerely and establish a system to enable farmers to continue farming.

*Katsuhiro Okamoto, 47, engaged in beef cattle fattening in Tahara, Aichi Prefecture. Owns 240 F1 beef cows and 60 Wagyu beef cows.

We are certainly worried that if the TPP talks are concluded, low-priced U.S. beef would come into the market and push down domestic prices. But we are even more concerned over the possibility of a sharp increase in imports of beef which is fattened for longer period of time for the Japanese market for better texture and flavor. I myself ship F1 beef cows at 29 months of age, about three months longer than usual, and have received a good valuation in terms of meat quality. If imports of low-priced, decent quality beef increase, consumers would turn to them and we cannot deny the possibility of overall market prices dropping. Everything will come to an end if we farmers give up. We must raise our voices and continue letting consumers be aware of the dangers of the TPP talks.

*Hirofumi Motoyama, 75, head of Shigekane Farm, an agricultural producers’ co-operative corporation in Higashihiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture. Grows rice, wheat and soy beans on 28 hectares of farmland.

Even now, supermarkets are having bargain sales of rice, selling it at surprisingly low prices. What will happen to rice prices if foreign countries embark on a commercial drive to export the product to Japan? Many of our member farms are located in less favored mountainous areas. We have made pioneering attempts to share agricultural equipment, but there are limits to our cost-cutting efforts. We hope to increase profits by expanding to horticulture, but we are short-handed due to aging and depopulation of the community. After rice prices began to drop last year, more farmers are saying they want to entrust their farmland to someone else. If the TPP deal gives another blow, agriculture in mountainous areas will not stand out any longer.

(June 26, 2015)

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