Ichiro Ozawa, President
Agricultural policy should not simply aim to improve efficiency, but should also consider food security and food self-sufficiency, as well as the revitalization of local communities.
Prime Minister Abe’s agricultural policies are detrimental to most farmers and local communities
I would not oppose the Abe administration’s agricultural policy, which proposes the de facto disbanding of the Japan Agriculture Cooperatives (JA) and introduction of free competition, if I believed it would improve the situation for farmers and for local communities, and raise Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate. However, Prime Minister Abe’s reform proposal will merely worsen the environment for Japanese agriculture, and will mean that only that portion of farms producing competitive products will be able to remain in business under the management of limited companies.
I am a JA member myself, and I believe that since the organization exists to support farmers, it must carry out the necessary reforms to achieve this. However, Prime Minister Abe is now aiming to introduce neoliberalist ideas into our agriculture industry. It is true that there are some Japanese agricultural products that are capable of competing internationally. However, such products are few and far between, and under Abe’s proposed regime the remaining agricultural businesses and farmers would have no alternative but to cease operation.
Furthermore, if corporations enter the agricultural industry, and portions of farming land are joined together in a bid to increase efficiency, it would mean sacrificing the jobs of most of those currently working in the industry. Furthermore, corporations are by nature profit-making organizations, so if they fail to make a profit, then they will soon decide to withdraw from the industry. What would become of their employees and local communities in such an eventuality?
We need to increase our food self-sufficiency rate in order to govern our nation securely
Agricultural policies that nurture competitive agricultural products run counter to efforts to increase Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate. In the early stages of market capitalism, the United Kingdom focused on highly productive manufactured goods at the expense of agriculture, but later came to regret this policy, injecting budgetary funds into agriculture, so that the national food self-sufficiency rate has now risen to 70%. Germany’s food self-sufficiency rate stands at 100%, France’s at 120-130% and both the United States and Australia have even higher levels.
It is imperative that we increase Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate in order to ensure the secure governance of our nation, food security, and the smooth running of our economy and society.
Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate has now fallen below 40%, but I believe that we should by rights ensure that it is 100%. Our nation has sufficient arable land available, and if we also use idle land to its full potential, with land in each region being put to the most appropriate use, it will be perfectly possible for us to become self-sufficient in all the major grain crops. Thanks to many years of selective breeding of rice strains and research results, it is now possible for us to cultivate rice from Hokkaido in the north to Kyushu in the south. Consequently, we can limit rice production up to a point, and use that land to cultivate soybeans or barley, or else for livestock or dairy farming.
We need to build a safety net to increase our food self-sufficiency rate to 100%
Japan’s production of fodder crops such as soybeans, barley and sweetcorn per tan (the harvest to be obtained per 10 ares or 100 m²) is currently approximately one half of that in Europe and North America. Japanese agriculture is characterized by intensive farming methods, in which farmers spend much time looking after their arable land and try to make the crop yield per unit as high as possible. I believe, therefore, that if we proceed with developing strains of the fodder crops mentioned above and take sufficient care in raising them, Japan will definitely be able to achieve crop production equivalent to that in Europe and North America.
Western nations use huge subsidies to maintain their food self-sufficiency rates, but it is only here in Japan that we talk negatively about “over-protection of farmers and farming communities.” Of course, producers need to learn properly about the principle of competition, and we must correct the deficits in our food control system. However, if we do not take this opportunity to construct a safety net to compensate farmers for production costs so they can raise and harvest another crop when they experience a bad harvest, for example, we will not be able to attain a high food self-sufficiency rate.