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