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The Hatoyama administration March 30 introduced a basic food, agriculture and agricultural-village program. Among other things, the program calls for raising Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate from the current 41 percent to 50 percent (calculated by calories) in 10 years. This goes beyond the 45 percent target of the previous Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito administration.

To achieve the goal, the administration will depart from traditional policy, which has leaned toward nurturing large-scale farming households. The program features measures aimed at ensuring the continuation of agricultural production not only by large-scale farming households, but also by small and part-time ones. Prominent among the new ideas is a system that will directly support individual farmers by partly compensating them for loss of income. The administration will also assist farmers to process and sell their products.

Japan’s calorie-based food self-sufficiency rate is low compared with other developed nations. The rate for Britain and Italy is between 60 percent and 70 percent, and the rate for both the United States and France tops 100 percent. There is a view that the calorie-based rate does not reflect reality, because of the low calorie count of nutritious vegetables and fruits. Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate in terms of gross output is currently about 65 percent.

Japan’s self-sufficiency rate for rice, wheat and barley is about 60 percent — still low compared with other developed nations. The self-sufficiency rate for wheat is especially low at less than 15 percent. The administration proposes increasing wheat production by using a two-crop system. It also calls for increasing the production of rice for use as cattle feed.

Giving farmers incentives to increase their productivity is a prerequisite for increasing the food self-sufficiency rate. The administration must closely examine whether the income compensation system, which has just started, is effective in this regard. If necessary, adjustments must continue to be made so that the system can serve its intended purpose.

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