Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's candidate lost the Saga gubernatorial election to a rival backed by the agriculture sector in a blow to his plans to shake up the farm industry.

Yoshinori Yamaguchi, 49, a former Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry official, won a close battle in a four-man race in the southwestern prefecture, supported by agricultural cooperative members and some LDP local assembly members opposed to Abe's planned farming reforms.

Yamaguchi secured the backing of the prefecture's powerful agricultural cooperative, which has long supported the LDP but fiercely opposes Abe's farming reforms aimed at overhauling the umbrella organization for agricultural groups across the country and giving local cooperatives more freedom in their operations.