Nation’s food self-sufficiency rate hits 23-year low as rice consumption decline continues

Nation's food self-sufficiency rate hits 23-year low as rice consumption decline continues

JIJI

The nation’s food self-sufficiency rate hit a 23-year low on a calorie basis in fiscal 2016 ended in March, due primarily to falling rice consumption, the farm ministry said.

The self-sufficiency rate fell 1 percentage point from the previous year to 38 percent, the second-lowest level on record after the 37 percent recorded in fiscal 1993, when the country suffered a serious rice shortage following unstable weather, the ministry said Wednesday.

The drop reflected significant falls in the production of wheat and other crops in Hokkaido, which suffered typhoon damage, in addition to the continuing decline in rice consumption. The government aims to raise the self-sufficiency rate to 45 percent by fiscal 2025, a task expected to be difficult.

The self-sufficiency rate shows how much domestic consumption is covered by domestic production.

Demand for meat is increasing, due to the Westernization of dietary habits, while consumption of rice, with high levels of self-sufficiency, is steadily declining.

Per capita annual rice consumption fell 0.2 kg to 54.4 g, less than half the amount consumed 50 years ago. On the other hand, meat consumption rose 0.9 kg to 31.6 kg.

On a production value basis, the food self-sufficiency rate rose 2 points to 68 percent, mainly because domestic beef prices rose. Imports of fruits and vegetables fell, while domestic production went up.

“It is necessary to enhance both the calorie-and production value-based self-sufficiency rates from the viewpoint of food security,” a ministry official said, voicing determination not to backtrack on the calorie-based target.

“We hope to achieve the 45 percent target by expanding the production of rice and wheat that suit the needs of consumers,” a senior official said.

An agricultural cooperative official, however, said, “With the number of farmers decreasing and trade liberalization progressing, the self-sufficiency rate will not rise unless the government goes all out to take necessary steps.”