• Kyodo

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A government panel proposed Wednesday that local agricultural cooperatives be allowed to run their businesses with a freer hand, rather than keeping the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives as their umbrella organization, in an effort to provide a boost to the sector.

The Council for Regulatory Reform also said the restriction on private firms’ ownership in agricultural corporations should be eased to less than 50 percent of their voting power from up to 25 percent at present to encourage newcomers.

“We want to change the current situation of Japan’s agriculture (sector),” Yasufumi Kanemaru, head of the council’s agricultural working group, said at a news conference. “It’s inappropriate to maintain the status quo at a time when the agricultural sector is on a downward spiral.”

While the government plans to use these proposals in its new economic growth strategy to be compiled in June, they are expected to draw criticism from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which is heavily supported by agricultural co-ops, as the loosen rules would lead the union, known as JA-Zenchu, to lose the right to supervise local co-ops and would be unable to collect membership dues.

The council, for its part, apparently aims to help farmers boost incomes by enabling local co-ops to run their businesses more in line with their needs.

The council also proposed transforming the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations, known as JA Zen-noh, into a stock company in the future. JA Zen-noh markets the agricultural products of its cooperatives.

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