Government to subsidize farmers’ costly food safety certification efforts ahead of 2020 Games

JIJI

The government will use subsidies to help farmers acquire the food safety certificates needed to participate in feeding Olympic athletes at the 2020 Games.

“The Olympics are the perfect opportunity to promote Japan’s food culture to the rest of the world,” a bureaucrat said. “Getting more farmers to obtain safety certificates can help expand Japan’s agricultural exports.”

The cost of the safety certificates poses a big hurdle because they can cost as much as ¥1 million per year.

At Olympic events, food supplied to the athletes’ village and sporting venues is required to meet international food safety standards. In December, Tokyo’s Olympic organizing committee thus proposed requiring food suppliers to obtain either Global GAP (Good Agricultural Practice) certification, an internationally recognized standard for farm production, or JGAP certification, a similar standard in Japan.

But to apply for Global GAP, farmers must pay as much as ¥1 million per year and submit their applications in English. The government thus plans to provide subsidies to farmers who revamp their farms to apply for them.

According to the farm ministry, only about 400 farms in Japan have obtained Global GAP, which is run by a German nonprofit group.

Farmers aiming to supply rice and wheat for the 2020 Games must apply for Global GAP by spring 2018, at the latest. The certification system, however, remains relatively unknown in Japan.

“If nothing is done, Japan will be unable to provide sufficient domestic foodstuffs for the 2020 Games and will have to use imported products,” a senior farm ministry official said.

The government thus plans to nurture experts well-versed in Global GAP and provide subsidies for drawing up a manual in Japanese on how to obtain the certification.