Friday, October 19, 2018
 Japan Imports Emergency Supplies of butter and Powdered Milk  

Japan has announced plans for emergency imports of 3,000 tons of butter and 10,000 tons of powdered milk, underlining its eroding food security. Another 7,000 tons of butter were imported earlier this year, although the purchase of skimmed milk is a first since 1997 and the largest in Japan's history.


The ministry of agriculture has said it was forced to act due to an anticipated shortage of both staples as food companies start planning the production of cakes for the Christmas and new year seasons. Of far more concern over the long term is the dramatic decline in domestic food production, which means that just 39 per cent of the food that Japan's residents require is grown or raised there. With the remainder imported, Japan is to a high degree vulnerable to rising world food prices, as well as the volatile cost of fuel required to bring foodstuffs in.

That position would become even more perilous should global unrest or conflict threaten the nation's supply lines. Japan ranks 124th in global food security and that situation is expected to worsen as competition for resources intensifies.

Dairy products appear to be most at risk, in part because of the sharp decline in dairy farmers. In 1985, there were around 82,000 dairy farmers in Japan, with 2.11 million livestock. Today, there are a mere 19,000 farmers with 1.4 million animals.

With older farmers retiring, fewer young Japanese want to make a living off the land as agriculture is seen as a dirty, dull and poorly paid career.

A number of factors have exacerbated the situation this year, with hot weather encouraging outbreaks of mastitis in dairy herds. Animal feed prices have also been higher than normal, which has damaged farmers' earnings and convinced many to retire.

Even if those factors are only temporary, the farming lobby has warned that the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement could have a devastating impact on domestic dairy famers as it opens the sector to cheap imports.

Japan grows enough rice and vegetables to feed its population, but is required to import large amounts of wheat, beans, fruit and animal feed. Similarly, livestock farmers are only able to meet half the domestic demand for meat, with the figure for fish also around 50 percent.

In a study conducted by the Cabinet Office earlier in the year, fully 83 percent of Japanese said they were concerned about domestic food security, up more than 6 percentage points from the last survey, in 2006.

Source: South China Morning Post

Posted on Thursday, October 30, 2014 (Archive on Thursday, November 06, 2014)
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