Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate marks 38 percent in fiscal 2019, far from its target of 45 percent

TOKYO, Aug. 6 – Japan’s calorie-based food self-sufficiency rate was 38 percent in fiscal 2019, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries announced on Aug. 5.

The ratio was up 1 percentage point from the record low of 37 percent in fiscal 2018, rising for the first time in 11 years since fiscal 2008 thanks to improved wheat yields.

The rate of increase was small, however, reflecting a decline in rice consumption, and meeting the government target of increasing the rate to 45 percent by fiscal 2030 remains a challenge.

The food self-sufficiency rate is an indicator to show how much a nation can cover the food it consumes with domestic output.

The agriculture ministry attributes the latest rise in the food self-sufficiency rate on a caloric intake basis to an increase in domestic wheat production. Thanks to good weather, the nation’s wheat yields marked a record high of 490 kilograms per 10 are in fiscal 2019.

The ministry said the boost in production will not be a temporary trend affected only by the weather, since there are other factors including spread of high-yielding varieties and improvement of drainage measures.

Although the self-sufficiency rate improved in fiscal 2019 compared with the record low rate marked in fiscal 2018, looking more closely, the figure was actually 37.82 percent in fiscal 2019, up only 0.4 percentage point from 37.42 percent a year before.

This is largely due to the decline in consumption of rice, which can be covered mostly by domestic output, the farm ministry said. The per capita supply of rice per year was 53 kg in fiscal 2019, dropping 0.5 kg from the previous year, pushing down the self-sufficiency rate.

The government’s new basic plan for food, agriculture and rural areas approved in March set a goal of increasing the calorie-based food self-sufficiency rate to 45 percent by fiscal 2030. In an effort to meet the target, the ministry plans to encourage people to consume more rice while boosting production of wheat and soybeans with increasing demand.

The self-sufficiency rate in output value terms was 66 percent in fiscal 2019, same as the previous year which was the second worst on record, pushed down by a decrease in vegetable prices brought about by higher yields.

While the food self-sufficiency rate is calculated by excluding livestock produced with imported feed, the ministry this year started releasing data under a new indicator to show the calorie-based ratio of domestically-produced food to domestic food supply, including livestock raised in the country regardless of whether they were fed by feed made in Japan or overseas.

The rate stood at 47 percent in fiscal 2019, up 1 percentage point from the previous year, due to an increase in production of milk and dairy products. The self-sufficiency rate of feed was 25 percent, unchanged from a year before.

According to another indicator adopted by the ministry, which shows the nation’s calorie-based food supply capability if it is utilized to its full potential, the daily per capita supply capability if cultivation is conducted mainly for wheat and rice would be 1,754 kilocalories in fiscal 2019, up 27 kilocalories from a year before. The figure, however, is below the estimated daily energy requirement per person of 2,168 kilocalories.

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