Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has included the promotion of agriculture in the "third arrow" of his economic growth strategy and envisaged the creation of agricultural villages that will produce world-class products for export.
But Japan's agriculture is now at a critical point. According to the fiscal 2012 white book on agriculture, people 65 years old or older accounted for 60 percent of those whose main job was farming and the average age of farmers is nearly 66. They're having difficulty finding successors, and the amount of agricultural land being abandoned is on the rise. In 2010, the total area of abandoned agricultural fields reached 396,000 hectares — equivalent to the area of Saitama Prefecture. Agricultural land that has been abandoned has been damaged by the foraging of animals such as monkeys, deer and wild boar. Cost increases caused by rising prices for fuel and feed are also taking a toll on Japan's agriculture.
A big problem with Mr. Abe's policy is that he fails to pay serious attention to the possibility that Japan's participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade plan may bankrupt small-scale agricultural producers. This would have a devastating effect on rural communities as well as the nation's natural environment.