The long-term decline of Japan's self-sufficiency in food continues. Last year, the food self-sufficiency in calorie terms fell to a record-low 37 percent — meaning the nation covered less than 40 percent of the food it consumes with domestic output — and the government's target of boosting the ratio to 45 percent seems as distant as ever. The steep gap, coupled with the reality of the nation's farming, raises the question of whether it's adequate to keep food self-sufficiency as a key yardstick in agricultural policy.

The decline in food self-sufficiency in 2018 was blamed on sharp cuts to domestic output of wheat and soybeans due to unfavorable weather. Until the mid-1960s, domestic production covered more than 70 percent of the food consumed in this country. But the self-sufficiency in food has since been on a long-term decline, dipping below 40 percent for the first time in 1993, when a cold summer resulted in an extremely poor rice crop of rice and a subsequent shortage.

The government has set targets to reverse the fall in self-sufficiency. But a target set in 2010 to increase the ratio to 50 percent by 2020 was revised downward to 45 percent just five years later as it was deemed too difficult to achieve. Now it is deemed almost impossible to achieve the new target by 2025. The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry says it hopes to raise the food self-sufficiency by promoting the output and consumption of domestic farm products. But behind its long-term decline are structural problems in the nation's agriculture, such as the declining number and steep aging of farm workers, as well as changes in Japanese consumers' dietary habits during the postwar period.