TOKYO, Aug. 10 — Japan’s food self-sufficiency dropped for the first time in six years to the second lowest level, due to steadily declining consumption of rice, the country’s stable food, as well as poor harvest in northern Japan after heavy rains.
The calorie-based rate of food self-sufficiency in 2016 fell to 37.58 percent, the agriculture ministry said Aug. 09.
The country’s lowest figure was 37 percent in 1993, after the unusually cold and rainy summer had damaged the rice crop, and forced Tokyo to make a move often considered taboo – importing foreign rice – at that time.
The food self-sufficiency rate shows how much a country can satisfy its food needs from its own domestic production. Japan’s calorie-based rate of food self-sufficiency had remained flat at 39 percent for the last six years.
So, a further decline is embarrassing for Tokyo, as the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to boost the calorie-based rate of food self-sufficiency to 45 percent by fiscal 2025.
Last year’s production of wheat and sugar beet each decreased roughly 20 percent, because the harvest in the northern island of Hokkaido was extremely poor following a series of strong typhoons.
In addition, the self-sufficiency rate declined in correspondence with the fall in the consumption of rice, whose domestic production nearly covers the country’s consumption.
In the meantime, the self-sufficiency in output value terms in 2016 rose for the second consecutive year to 68 percent on the back of a rise in beef and rice prices.