• Kyodo

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Japan maintained a food self-sufficiency rate of 39 percent measured by calorific intake in fiscal 2013 for the fourth consecutive year, avoiding a decrease thanks to increased rice demand ahead of the consumption tax hike, farm ministry data showed Tuesday.

The ministry said that rice, with imports limited to a fraction of the market, accounts for a little more than 20 percent of the entire calorific needs in Japan and lifted self-sufficiency by 0.2 percentage points.

The gain was offset by declines in wheat and soybean output due to unseasonal weather.

Rice demand grew in the year through March, ahead of the April 1 increase in the consumption tax.

When measured by production value, domestic supply covered 65 percent of consumption, down 2 points from fiscal 2012, on a par with a record low marked in 2008.

The weak yen lifted the value of produce imports.

The value figure is generally higher because of vegetables, a high-priced category with limited calorific content.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry wants to raise food self-sufficiency to 50 percent of calorific intake in fiscal 2020, a goal widely deemed unachievable.

The rate fell from 79 percent in fiscal 1960, the earliest year in which comparable data is available, to 37 percent in 1993, a year with a poor rice crop.

Japan ranks the lowest in domestic food sufficiency among major economies such as the United States, Germany, Australia and South Korea.

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