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The country should raise its food self-sufficiency rate as the global balance of food supply and demand is expected to get tighter as biofuel production increases, according to a government white paper approved Friday by the Cabinet.

The balance is also likely to tighten due to increases in the world population that will boost grain consumption, according to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry’s fiscal 2006 report.

Japan may “face rising food prices and difficulties in securing sufficient amounts of foods,” the report warns.

Demand for corn has been increasing rapidly. More plants have been built in the United States to produce ethanol, a renewable fuel distilled from crops such as sugar cane, corn and wheat. This has led to higher prices for food and animal feed there, the white paper says.

Demand for corn for biofuel production is expected to rise to 31 percent of overall U.S. demand for corn in 10 years, from 18 percent in 2006, making the amount for export inevitably lower, which will affect food-importing nations like Japan.

The world’s population will continue to grow, with particularly notable increases in developing economies, the report says. The global population is expected to top 9 billion in 2050, compared with 6.5 billion in 2006, and grain consumption will rise as a result.

Grain consumption in developing countries is seen doubling in 2050 from the annual average of 1.1 billion tons between 1999 and 2001.

To address the tightening supply and demand situation, some members of the government’s Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy have proposed Japan strengthen relations with food-exporting nations to secure a stable food supply and conclude more economic partnership agreements with them that would include trade liberalization of farm products.

But the white paper also points to risks of depending on imports, saying that in a crisis exporting countries would supply food to their own populations first.

On measures to improve the food self-sufficiency rate in Japan, the paper calls for creating large-scale farming with an eye to reducing production costs.

It calls for revitalizing agriculture by encouraging residents in urban areas to start farming as populations in farming communities are aging and declining. It also suggests growing rice on abandoned farmland to stockpile for emergencies.

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