45% of Japan's farms with younger workers see sales of over ¥10 million in the 2017 fiscal year


An annual government report on agriculture showed Tuesday that 45.2 percent of farming households with workers aged 49 or younger earned ¥10 million or more in sales in 2015.

The number of farming households with younger workers totals some 140,000, or about 10 percent of the country’s overall households engaging in agriculture for business, according to the fiscal 2017 white paper. It was approved at a Cabinet meeting the same day.

Younger farming households commonly grow sales by improving productivity through aggressive capital expenditures and expansion of production areas — particularly for rice growing and dairy husbandry — according to the report.

The share of households that had at least 10 hectares for production in 2015 stood at slightly less than 20 percent for households with farmers aged 49 or below, far higher than the 1.5 percent for households without younger farmers.

For families with younger workers that sell only rice, the average production area increased 1.5 times from a decade ago to 7.1 hectares — mainly reflecting brisk purchases of retired farmers’ land.

With regard to capital expenditure, annual investment in rice growing, which requires particularly large equipment, by families with younger workers was on average eight times the level seen from their older counterparts over the three years to 2015.

In dairy farming, the average annual expenditure by younger households was about three times the level seen in older households. Typical big projects in the sector include the rebuilding of barns to automate milking.

The aggressive spending resulted in shorter working hours for younger households both in rice growing and dairy farming. Average working hours per area and per animal over a three-year period were 30 to 40 percent shorter for younger households than those for families without younger workers.

While farming households are growing old and declining in numbers, the annual number of people who started farming at 49 or younger exceeded 20,000 for the third straight year in 2016, according to the report.

“It is important for young farmers to realize efficient and stable management,” it stressed.