Japan’s JA group plays critical export role: agriculture minister

TOKYO, March 20 — Japanese Agriculture Minister Ken Saito has said the nation’s largest farmers’ group has a critical role in leading exports of agricultural products as Japan faces a declining population.

“We need to take a big push to expand our food exports, but it is difficult for farmers themselves to sell their products globally,” Saito told foreign media at a March 19 meeting.

“So, the JA group should take a leading role when it comes to peddling their wares to the world,” he stressed. “That is how the group should reinvent itself now.”

The JA group has been a prime target of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s structural changes to opening Japan’s long-protected agriculture sector from foreign competition.

Abe successfully passed legislation, which aims to remove the group’s ability to audit and extract taxes from the nation’s nearly 700 agricultural cooperatives by 2018.

In doing so, Abe has sought to weaken the group’s power to lobby the government, paving the way to slash high tariffs on agricultural products, compelling farmers to consolidate while improving efficiency and productivity in the sector.

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