45% food self-sufficiency target set for 2010

Japan should take steps to boost agricultural production and attain well-balanced food consumption to achieve its target of raising food self-sufficiency to 45 percent in fiscal 2010, the government said Tuesday.

In an annual report, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries underlined the need not only for farmers to raise productivity but also for consumers to review eating habits to meet the self-sufficiency target.

Japan’s food self-sufficiency in terms of calorific intake peaked at 73 percent in fiscal 1965 but fell to 40 percent in fiscal 1998, the lowest among major industrial nations.

The self-sufficiency rate is calculated by dividing domestic food supply by overall food demand, expressed both in calories per-person and on a per-day basis.

The annual report defends setting a food self-sufficiency target for security reasons, emphasizing the need to be ready for a sudden halt in food imports.

Because Japan is the world’s largest net food importer, it should take up its food security case at the farm trade negotiations under the World Trade Organization, according to the report, the first since the July 1999 enactment of an agricultural law that shifts the emphasis of government policy from industrial protection to food security and safety as well as environmental conservation.

The annual report also calls for maintaining nationwide land cultivation at 4.7 million hectares in fiscal 2010 and making better use of land to meet self-sufficiency.

Japan’s farmland peaked at 6.09 million hectares in 1961 but fell to 4.87 million hectares in 1999 due to a decline in the farming population.

To maintain cultivation at current levels, the report asks for public support for farming subsidies the ministry is scheduled to start providing in fiscal 2000 as a way to dissuade farmers in high and mountainous areas from giving up farming.

Genome info-sharing

Japan and other nations involved in an international consortium charged with analyzing rice genomes have agreed to share information on rice genes held by the U.S. biotechnology giant Monsanto Co., Agriculture Minister Tokuichiro Tamazawa said Tuesday.

Tamazawa, minister for agriculture, forestry and fisheries, told a news conference that the deal follows Monsanto’s offer to provide its information on rice genes free of charge.

Under the agreement, Japan’s National Institute of Agrobiological Resources will manage related rice genome information, because NIAR is a core institute involved in the international rice genome project, Tamazawa said.

Monsanto is the world’s leading producer of genetically modified crop seeds.

The other members of the international consortium are Britain, Canada, China, France, India, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States.