• Kyodo

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Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate was 39 percent in fiscal 2014 for the fifth consecutive year, failing to meet the lowered government target of 45 percent, farm ministry data showed Friday.

In the year through March, the food self-sufficiency rate remained unchanged from recent years as an increase in domestic output of wheat and soybean was offset by a decrease in demand for rice, the country’s staple food mostly produced in Japan, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said.

The food self-sufficiency rate, which is based on a calorific intake basis, refers to the ratio of domestically-consumed food supplied by producers in the country. In March the government lowered the rate to 45 percent from the initial target of 50 percent amid criticism that it was unachievable.

In fiscal 2014, the annual rice consumption per person fell 1.7 kilograms to a record-low 55.2 kg, pushing down the self-sufficiency ratio by 0.2 percentage points from the previous year.

Consumption of import-dependent food oil also increased on the back of rising demand in the food service industry, lowering the sufficiency rate by 0.2 points. Meanwhile, production of wheat and soybeans in Japan grew due to good weather and expansion of cropping acreages.

Farm minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told a news conference Friday, “We will aim to achieve the (45 percent) goal by expanding domestic farm production to meet the diversified needs of consumers.”

When measured by production value, the food self-sufficiency rate in fiscal 2014 dropped 1 point from a year earlier to 64 percent. While the price of domestically-produced rice fell, that of fishery products rose in the international market and the weak yen boosted the value of imports.

Japan has one of the lowest food self-sufficiency rates among major economies. In 2011, the rate in the United States was estimated at 127 percent and at 205 percent in Australia.

Countries with less farmland have lower sufficiency rates, with the rate registering 57 percent in Switzerland and 39 percent in South Korea.

In Japan, the sufficiency rate by calorific intake amounted to 79 percent in fiscal 1960, but decreased to 37 percent in fiscal 1993, affected by a poor rice crop that year. It recovered to 46 percent the following year, but has stood around 40 percent in the last 20 years.

The rate has been on the decline in Japan due to the drop in rice consumption and the Westernization of the country’s diet which has pushed up consumption of imported meat and wheat.

The farm ministry data also showed Japan’s potential in fiscal 2014 to produce food to ensure food security in case of emergencies based on the current farmland and the number of farmers.

If potatoes are planted to prepare for contingencies, one person would be supplied with 2,736 calories per day, above the minimum 2,146 calories required. However, the estimated calorie supply dropped by 12 calories from the previous year due partly to a decrease in farmland.

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