Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate misses target again

Kyodo

The nation’s food self-sufficiency rate on a calorie intake basis was 39 percent in fiscal 2015 for the sixth year in a row, falling short of the government target of 45 percent, the farm ministry said Tuesday.

In the year through March, the self-sufficiency rate remained unchanged from recent years as an increase in output of wheat and sugar beets was offset by a decrease in output of fishery products and consumption of rice, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said.

The food self-sufficiency rate refers to the ratio of consumed food supplied by domestic producers. The government in March 2015 reduced the target rate to 45 percent from the initial target of 50 percent amid criticism that it was unachievable.

In fiscal 2015, fishery product output came to about 4.18 million tons, down 3 percent from the previous year, due to a decline in the saury and scallop catches. The annual rice consumption per person stood at 54.6 kg, down 2 percent.

In contrast, the output of wheat and sugar beets expanded, thanks to good weather in the major production area of Hokkaido.

Measured by production value, the food self-sufficiency rate in fiscal 2015 climbed 2 percentage points from the preceding year to 66 percent.

It represented the first year-on-year upturn in six years as the prices of domestically produced vegetables such as cabbage and lettuce and of beef headed higher.

The ministry data also showed Japan’s potential in fiscal 2015 to produce food to ensure food security in case of emergencies based on current farmland and the number of farmers.

If potatoes are planted to prepare for contingencies, one person would be supplied with calories about 1.1 to 1.3 times the minimum 2,146 calories required per day. But the estimated calorie supply dropped from the prior year due to a decrease in farmland.

Japan has one of the lowest food self-sufficiency rates among the major economies. Its rate by calorie intake was 79 percent in fiscal 1960 but hit bottom at 37 percent in fiscal 1993 due to a poor rice crop that year. It bounced back to 46 percent the following year but has stood at around 40 percent for the last 20 years.