While consumption of rice has been declining in Japan, the use of feed rice is on the rise, giving added value to livestock products in some regions.
An increasing number of farmers are switching from imported fodder such as corn to domestic rice as feed for livestock like pigs and cattle to meet consumer demand for food safety.
In some regions, the use of rice has helped the branding of livestock products, contributing to local economic recoveries, sources familiar with the situation said.
Palsystem Consumers’ Co-operative Union has raised the share of rice in feedstuff for pigs from 10 percent to 30 percent. The meat from the pigs was popular with consumers.
“The pork is tender and non-fatty,” one customer said, according to a Palsystem official.
In the April-September first half of fiscal 2017, sales of the pork products grew some 19 percent from a year before, Palsystem said.
According to the agriculture ministry, the number of cases in which rice feed is used for livestock branding strategies came to 75, taking place in 36 of the 47 prefectures, as of the end of August.
With the government encouraging rice farmers to shift to feed rice from the perspective of maintaining rice fields and protecting the environment, feed rice production surged to 506,000 tons in 2016 from 8,000 tons in 2008.
Feed rice has thus become more cost-competitive compared with imported feedstuff, attracting demand from livestock producers.
Meanwhile, production of rice for direct human consumption is estimated to total 7.31 million tons in 2017, down sharply from 8.66 million tons in 2008, amid the country’s low birthrate and aging population, as well as diversified diets.