Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate in fiscal 2014, which ended in March, was 39 percent on a calorific intake basis for the fifth consecutive year, the farm ministry announced Friday, Aug. 7. On a production value basis, the rate marked a record low of 64 percent, down 1 percentage point from the previous year, reflecting a decline in rice prices.
In March, the government set its calorie-based food self-sufficiency target for fiscal 2025 at 45 percent in the revised basic plan for food, agriculture and rural areas. The target for the production value-based sufficiency rate was set at 73 percent.
The latest data shows the government is facing a tough road in implementing policies focusing on strengthening agricultural production and increasing income of farmers and rural villages.
The domestic agriculture sector is also threatened by the possible impact of the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks, which could go against the government’s goal of ensuring food security and expanding farmers’ income. The government must maintain an uncompromising stance not only to keep the Diet resolution calling for protection of key farm items but also to meet its food self-sufficiency target.
The food self-sufficiency rate for fiscal 2014 was pushed down by 0.2 percentage points on a calorie basis due to the backlash in demand for rice from the surge preceding a consumption tax hike in April 2014. Meanwhile, rise in production of wheat and soybeans backed by expanded acreage and good weather offset the drop in rice production. Without the favorable production of wheat and soybeans, the nation’s self-sufficiency rate could have dropped below the previous year’s level, indicating the government cannot be optimistic about meeting the goal of improving self-sufficiency. Since the government has lowered its long-term target in the revised basic plan from 50 percent to 45 percent to make it more achievable, it has to become serious about shoring up its farm policies.
The self-sufficiency rate in terms of production value was 64 percent, down 1 percentage point from a year before, mainly due to decline in rice prices brought about by excessive supply. Reduction in rice production totaled JPY331.9 billion in terms of value, pushing down the rate by 0.8 percentage points. The government’s target is to raise the production value-based self-sufficiency rate to 73 percent by fiscal 2025, but the revision of its rice production adjustment policy, which was implemented in fiscal 2014, resulted in having a reverse effect on the goal of raising self-sufficiency. Balancing supply and demand of rice and stabilizing prices will be the key to meet the target.
On the other hand, self-sufficiency in animal feed increased for the first time in three years, marking 27 percent, up 1 percentage point from the previous year. This is attributable to a sharp rise in production of rice for feed, which contributed to increasing supply of domestically-produced animal feed by 4 percent to roughly 6,400 tons.
Farm minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters the same day that the government will work on improving self-sufficiency under the basic plan. Hayashi explained the government will take measures to support producers such as boosting production capacity which corresponds to consumer needs, identifying high-quality agricultural land and nurturing highly motivated farmers, while making efforts to promote locally-produced farm products. “We will implement various policy measures comprehensively and systematically,” he said.
The ministry also released the same day indicators to show the nation’s food production potential in fiscal 2014. The government newly created the indicators in its revised basic plan to measure the potential capability in terms of four conditions such as: growing mainly rice, wheat and soybeans to maintain a nutritionally balanced diet close to the status quo; growing mainly tuber crops to maximize caloric intake. Under all four conditions, the capability slightly dropped from a year before, affected by the fact that the total area of arable land decreased 20,000 hectares from the previous year to 4.52 million hectares.
(Aug. 8, 2015)