Dangerous to depend on imports for food supply


September 21, 2022

TOKYO – The stability of food supply is threatened by the deterioration of the global security environment and climate change. The Japanese government must take the situation seriously and rethink its strategy on this issue.

To enhance food security, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has instructed relevant ministries and agencies to review the Basic Law on Food, Agriculture and Rural Areas, which was enacted in 1999 and serves as the country’s basic policy. in agricultural policy. It is said that the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will lead the review of the law, over a period of about a year.

Economic globalization advanced with the end of the Cold War. Economic rationality has been emphasized in the globalized economy, and food could be secured by cooperating in mass production in high productivity regions and importing food from these regions.

However, the Ukrainian crisis has seriously shaken this assumption. The supply of wheat and other staples has been disrupted and prices have soared. Some countries restrict exports in favor of securing food for their own consumption. Another concern is that climate change is causing frequent droughts around the world.

It is necessary to revise the basic law and accurately reflect the changing situation in the agricultural policy of the nation.

Japan is heavily dependent on food imports, with its calorie self-sufficiency rate standing at 38% in fiscal 2021. This is one of the lowest levels among developed countries.

In particular, most grains consumed in Japan – such as corn, wheat and soybeans – are imported, with the exception of rice.

The country’s food imports are seriously out of balance, with the four countries of the United States, Australia, Canada and Brazil accounting for more than 70% of Japan’s food imports. All of these countries are friendly to Japan, but once an eventuality occurs, shipping will become difficult and supply may be disrupted.

It is essential to strengthen the national production base. The government provides subsidies to encourage a shift to wheat and soybeans as well as crops to feed livestock, thereby reducing the production of rice as a staple. Expanding this subsidy program would be an attractive option.

Efforts should also be made to develop cereal production using unused agricultural land.

However, replacing the entire food supply with domestic production would be costly and impractical. It will be important to select the crops that will be given priority in national production and to provide support measures.

Japan should further strengthen its cooperative relations with countries that are major sources of imports and, at the same time, consider increasing stocks of imported grain and other commodities.

Japanese farmers are aging and their numbers are drastically decreasing.

To strengthen the national production base, it is important to increase farmers’ incomes and make agriculture profitable. An effective way to achieve this is to increase exports of domestic agricultural products to foreign markets. Exports are steadily increasing and the government should provide more support to this end.


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