business

Gov't to import 4,000 tons of butter to ease shortage

63 Comments

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has announced a plan to increase butter imports by 4,000 tons in preparation for the Christmas and Valentine seasons.

The ministry implemented a similar policy last year as milk production declined in Hokkaido and other prefectures.

Japan has suffered a butter shortage each year since 2013 when a heat wave during the summer led to a drastic decline in the domestic production of raw milk. In addition, the number of dairy farmers has been shrinking, causing a drop in milk production. Furthermore, dairy farmers tend to prioritise the raw material for sales of liquid milk.

Japan's raw milk production was 6.45 million tons in fiscal 2015, down 15% from the peak year 20 years ago, according to government data.

This year, the ministry said typhoons in Iwate and Hokkaido have disrupted milk production, Fuji TV reported. The extra 4,000 tons to be imported from mainly New Zealand are in addition to 13,000 tons of butter already imported this year.

As the holiday season approaches, consumer demand spikes with butter in demand for Christmas cakes, other baked goods as well as white sauces.

Last year, four major domestic dairy companies -- Morinaga Milk Industry Co, Megmilk Snow Brand Co, Yotsuba Milk Products Co and Meiji Co -- increased production of home-use butter in the first half of December by 30% to make up for the shortfall, by cutting back on drinking milk and cream production.

Once again, the agriculture ministry has appealed to consumers not to hoard butter and only buy as much as they need.

© Japan Today

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63 Comments
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I was able to purchase a block of HOKKAIDO Snow Brand butter (200g) at my local super for 298 YEN, yesterday. So what's that about outrageous pricing?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Glad to see that the Japanese government have found a solution to this problem quickly.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

New zealand Farmers buy alot of toyota hylux, uts and 4x4 farm bikes, this is a win win trade for Japan and NewZealand, rember Newzealand has a free trade with China and their motor industry is improving, didnt the chinese just buy volvo. An industrial nation like Japan pairs perfectly with New zealand and we have sister city relationships with Japan, and the japanese have built a good amount of respect with new zealand over the years

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The additional tonnage needs to be packaged in its own foreign livery in order to impress upon Japanese consumers the fact of their dependence on the rest of the world.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

englsc, I make dinner rolls, Swiss Zopf beead, and croissants, among others, all of which need butter. Some recipes call for as little as 15 grams, but you need it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

yes, you are a c*nt

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Dinner rolls, croissants, hot cross buns, chelsea buns, barm cakes and tea cakes are yummy breads that use butter. Not to mention a Christmas Stollen, that uses mountains of the stuff. But ordinary everyday bread for yer dinner, that don't need no butter in it, just on it when it's baked.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Why do you need butter to make bread, the only ingredient that should go in to good bread are Stone Ground Flour (personally prefer wholemeal but white is also good), Yeast, salt (to strengthen the gluten) and water (I guess you could be making brioche?).

Or Himajin could just be making bread to a different recipe than the ones you use.

Imagine that.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Here is my proof it's a artificial shortage;

https://www.japantoday.com/smartphone/view/kuchikomi/bureaucratic-bungling-behind-butter-shortage

After the butter shortage became severe last year, the bureaucrats tried to backtrack and persuade the cheese makers to shift their raw materials to address the butter shortfall, but other bureaucrats told them not to bother, claiming if consumers could get their hands on more butter they’d hoard it.

AND

the 10 directors of the Agriculture & Livestock Industries Corporation, five are former Agriculture Ministry bureaucrats, and one is an “old boy” from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The corporation’s director pulls in a cozy annual salary of around 16.72 million yen. Enough, the magazine notes bitterly, to let him live off the fat of the land, while the hoi polloi are obliged to make do with less… and less.

And this happens every year (most of the articles are "removed" but you can still google cache search them:

https://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/seasonal-celebrations-threatened-by-nationwide-butter-shortage

https://www.japantoday.com/category/business/view/japan-braces-for-another-butter-shortage

https://www.japantoday.com/category/business/view/hope-fades-tpp-pact-could-end-japans-butter-shortage

https://www.japantoday.com/smartphone/view/business/govt-announces-plan-to-ease-butter-shortage-for-holiday-season

https://www.japantoday.com/category/politics/view/japanese-butter-on-the-table-in-pacific-trade-talks

https://www.japantoday.com/smartphone/view/politics/agricultural-reform-a-stiff-test-of-abes-resolve

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Rana Sodhi, try Kaldi for imported butter, but prepare to pay dearly for it!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Haha!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@Rana

Salt

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Reckless, good Lol Anyhow I love butter but in Japan it is not salty which I miss from my country. Any suggestions?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Rana Sodhi, I can feel your eyeballs poking me from the internet page admonishing "By the way, who the hell these days eats veins blocking butter."

I for one love butter and would rather have dry toast than use margarine, which is an industrial product. Jam is good as well. So far my veins seem to be working.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Japan's dairy industry is a mess. There is still sufficient milk on the shelves, because Japan's subsidies and agricultural policy are geared to favoring milk production over other dairy products. It's not only butter that is in chronic short supply, but also sour cream, cottage cheese and other dairy product.

A huge factor behind the increasingly chronic shortages is that aging Japanese dairy farmers are retiring in droves. There are 66% as many dairy farms now in Japan as there were in 2008. The number of dairy farms has long been dropping by about 4% per year.

Here are some numbers from Japan's Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food. in 1963 there were 417,600 dairy farms in Japan. The number was 25,400 in 2007, and dropped to 17,000 in 2016.

Here are the stats if anyone is interested (second to last page): http://gain.fas.usda.gov/Recent%20GAIN%20Publications/Livestock%20and%20Products%20Annual_Tokyo_Japan_9-10-2016.pdf

4 ( +4 / -0 )

A ministry which can not arrange that is either incompetent or corrupt.

This could be said for quite a large part of the entire system and not just one particular ministry.

However, it's more like complicit than either. People who have been around long enough remember the problems with rice and having to import foreign "lower quality" (sarcasm) rice and the flood of tv shows and events "teaching" people how to prepare and use the "gaijin" raised rice.

Be happy that with the butter issue the government isn't complaining about the foreign cows!

And Japanese butter just tastes so much better.....(Coming from a coni-sewer) of Japanese products! (Again sarcasm!)

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Himajin - Why do you need butter to make bread, the only ingredient that should go in to good bread are Stone Ground Flour (personally prefer wholemeal but white is also good), Yeast, salt (to strengthen the gluten) and water (I guess you could be making brioche?).

Agree NZ butter is very good, we used to get a lot here, then our idiot politicians dragged us in to the EEC who promptly slapped an import tax on it! Personally don't find Continental European butters as good with the exception of Irish.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

50 % butter? what makes fest? less eatinng butter means less fat zjapanexe?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Why Japan was importing butter from New Zealand? Japan and Australia has singed free trade agreement this year and Japan should buy butter from Australia.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'll tell you what - prices butter come down!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It's cheaper because It's only 50% butter...

Not all of it. The top one is, the rest are butter, but unsalted. I buy unsalted butter in blocks for breadmaking, that's the average price for a block of unsalted butter, a bit more if it's cultured.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Du will ease Japanese auto import. Japan will ease Import of European daily product. Erad aJT article.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Ironic that Japan's government with all its protections for farmers, is now importing so much of its butter from New Zealand's unprotected producers.

New Zealand went through a load of tough reforms around 3 decades ago, but they haven't reverted back to the types of government controls that remain in place in Japan.

Japan could be so much better off if the people would elect a reform government to give things the shakeup so badly needed.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Triring - please note. The butter shown - snow brand - costs around ¥450 in my supa the same as Bill M said, making it over ¥1100 / 500g. That's expensive. The dairy industry here is insanely protected.

Rana - vein blocking butter??? You need to read more current research on "fat/oil evils".

There is no way Japan can be self sufficient in many of the main 21stC food staples - dairy products, flour, soy, etc.

Not under any of the agricultural strategies employed at the moment that's for sure.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It is really pretty disgraceful that a country which considers itself developed and sophisticated can't sort out something as basic as butter. How long has this shortage been going on now?

But then again, why bother fixing something when a shoganai attitude in the populace will preclude demands for action and thus guarantee a bonanza for the LDP-voting ag bloc?

Everyone's a winner. Or rather, everyone the LDP gives a toss about.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"200g x 4 boxes of Meiji butter works out to around ¥300 at Costco"

I believe I be getting ripped off at my local supermarket...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

And both aren't as good as New Zealand or French butter, both of which have tariffs of some 900% to protect local farmers, who are too lazy to make enough and whom no one wants to take over from.

Easy there with the lazy jibes. How many days would you last doing farm work before you hobbled gratefully back to the classroom?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

4000 tons of butter? Christmas, Valentine? Am I reading this correctly? This is a drop in the ocean. What the consumers want is a steady, reliable supply of butter throughout the year and not at rip-off prices. A ministry which can not arrange that is either incompetent or corrupt.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

"Consumers hoarding butter"... what do I find that so ridiculous.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It's cheaper because It's only 50% butter...

I can believe it's not butter!TM

By the way, who the hell these days eats veins blocking butter

It's healthier than margarine, and tastes much better. So, me.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Get some Anchor NZ butter in ya!

Japanese won't know what hit them - demand for imported NZ butter will skyrocket. You have not tasted butter until you have tasted creamy, pure NZ butter.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The cheapest is 685 yen for 450 yen.

This really makes sense!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

By the way, who the hell these days eats veins blocking butter.

-12 ( +1 / -13 )

Why is the government getting involved in an area that is the province of the private sector (even thouhg it was the Ministry of Ag's recommendation that herds be culled that precipitated this shortage)? The less this incompetent government sticks its hand in, the better. And, as has been pointed out, a trip to your local Costco will reveal that there is no shortage of butter in Japan if you're willing to pony up for a membership...

5 ( +5 / -0 )

200g x 4 boxes works out to around ¥340 at Costco

Strike that, 200g x 4 boxes of Meiji butter works out to around ¥300 at Costco, without tax.

Shrimp Scampi tonight. YUM!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Why must the government be invloved in importing butter, that should be left up to the import / trading companies and the free market. Oh, I forgot, there is no free market...

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Bill Murphy: better for you than some of the alternatives, and unless you're going to talk about the risks of everything under the sun, starting with "ajinomoto", white rice, and anything processed, there's not a lot of point bringing health concerns into the butter shortage argument. The closest alternatives are shortening -- far worse for you -- and margarine for baking.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

At our local in Tokyo a 200 g package of salted butter, Snow Brand, goes for ¥450 so 1 lb. would cost a little less than ¥1,100 though shoppers have been restricted to 1 package each at times. Of course, the price won't matter when the medical community does another about face on the benefits or risks of butter consumption.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Ron Barnes: not without the massive tariffs, they cannot. On top of that you would have to pay international ship ping and refrigeration costs. Nope, the j-government ensures the prices of its own jacked up butter are slightly more affordable than importing, perhaps unintentionally ensuring a shortage every year (could well be intentional -- it's guaranteed to sell out at minimum triple the costs of other nations).

4 ( +7 / -3 )

thats a lot of butter...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I know a great supplier of butter from New Hampshire.... no GMO and they can supply 10 tons. Can get you good price!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Well import Australian Butter its Better for you. Their are Producers in Australia that can Supply Export Quality butter now

6 ( +8 / -2 )

This is a perennial problem - JT has reported on it before. More on the "inane" mechanisms that have led us to this sorry land of expensive butter and few cheese sources here: https://www.japantoday.com/smartphone/view/kuchikomi/bureaucratic-bungling-behind-butter-shortage

8 ( +8 / -0 )

200g x 4 boxes works out to around ¥340 at Costco

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I somehow doubt this shortage has come from domestic consumers. It's too expensive to be hoarding it. It's most likely the huge cake industry that has been hoarding it. However, hoarding or not, it still shows a huge management fail by the Japanese agricultural ministry. This shortage has been going on for years and started long before the climate change stated in this article.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

@ Triring “Here http://kakaku.com/search_results/-/?category=0028_0007_0003&act=Price&maxp=999

The cheapest is 685 yen for 450 yen.”

It's cheaper because It's only 50% butter...

12 ( +13 / -1 )

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Sounds similar to the food shortage" problems" experienced by the Eastern European behind the iron curtain countries half a century ago. J- govt. & bureaucracy planning at its finest, 2016.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

"Go to your nearest Ito Yokado or Aeon store to actually know the prices. A Snow brand butter is a bit more expensive then a Meji brand. As for quality, no there is no difference but merely subjective opinion in taste."

And both aren't as good as New Zealand or French butter, both of which have tariffs of some 900% to protect local farmers, who are too lazy to make enough and whom no one wants to take over from. So, the government protectionist measures have backfired and created a massive shortage.

And lest we forget, Meiji is a company renowned for mislabelling. I highly doubt their butter is pure -- probably only a certain percentage of dairy mixed with oil, like their 'butter-flavoured' products.

13 ( +17 / -4 )

headline: Gov't steps in to halt annual gov't-generated crises. More at 11... 月。

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Go to your nearest Ito Yokado or Aeon store to actually know the prices.

Nagano-ken. Snow brand butter, 150 g package, 398 yen. Looking at the receipt right now.

To get 454 grams, that's 3 packs roughly. 3 packs times 398 yen is roughly 1200 yen.

You were saying?

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Yes, please send over a few thousand tons of nice reasonably priced Kiwi butter.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

I blame those salty butter rolls, curse their crispy deliciousness.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Go to your nearest Ito Yokado or Aeon store to actually know the prices. A Snow brand butter is a bit more expensive then a Meji brand. As for quality, no there is no difference but merely subjective opinion in taste.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

Incredible that such a thing needs to occur, and that once wasn't enough to make them pull their heads out of their behinds.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

I can understand the government policy of aiming for self-sufficiency in agriculture, but if it leads to shortages, the policy is not really working. If the domestic producers can't increase their production, the government should lift all import tariffs and maintain only the same quality requirements as the domestic producers are subject to.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

so much for free trade!

12 ( +13 / -1 )

A 200g block you see in the picture costs around 350~400 yen so a pound cost around 800~900 yen, not any where near 1200 yen that some suggests.

Basically the butter shortage is due to the regulated cost of purchase from the dairy farmer placing emphasis on fresh milk which is 100 yen per 10 liter or something higher then dairy for butter production so the dairy farmers produces more fresh milk then milk for butter. There is also the red tape of raw milk not allowed to cross the prefecture border to protect each dairy farmer all drawn by Nokyo. That is why most of the butter is produced in Hokkaido which has a surplus in milk production.

5 ( +15 / -10 )

Importing from where? This continuing butter shortage is down to poor agricultural policies, not the weather.

16 ( +17 / -1 )

Japanese butter is special and is suited to Japanese metabo. Hence the restrictions on foreign butter and price. Even thought global milk prices are at all time lows, Japan must protect its domestic dairy producers.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

But it won't taste as nice as Japanese butter!!!!!!!!!!!

7 ( +12 / -5 )

The price of butter here is 4-5 times what it is overseas. I pity the Japanese consumer......

17 ( +19 / -2 )

"Japan has suffered a butter shortage each year since 2013 when a heat wave during the summer led to a drastic decline in the domestic production of raw milk. "

Ummm, no, not because of the heatwave. Because of government stupidity and protectionist measures backfiring. Hence you have butter, which averages about $3-4 per lb (or 454 grams), costing 1200 yen or more in Japan, and there being a major shortage every year.

23 ( +25 / -2 )

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