Cattle roam on a ranch in Erimo, Hokkaido. Photo: REUTERS file
politics

Japanese cattle farmers fear U.S. trade deal will be death knell

75 Comments
By Kyoko Hasegawa

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75 Comments
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ooh well.....its how market economies work. Inefficient and wasteful, somebody got to take your spot.

16 ( +23 / -7 )

ooh well.....its how market economies work. Inefficient and wasteful, somebody got to take your spot.

Agreed. Most people that claim the government shouldn't interfere with markets don't understand that they'd be eaten alive by the larger market participants.

6 ( +11 / -5 )

"Japanese beef may be delicious and offer a sense of safety to consumers, but U.S. beef is absolutely cheaper, and that's attractive to some," Kawai said.

Yeah right, you have been drinking the koolaid too long too! It's because of farmers like you that charge ungodly amounts of money for your product that you are in this situation now.

Far too many ranchers and producers here have over charged the consumers for so many years, and have failed to keep up with the times, and now WE the consumers will FINALLY have a choice!

Wagyu will always have a market, only those who adapt to the market will survive!

21 ( +26 / -5 )

I am actually very sympathetic to Japanese farmers. They truly are at a huge disadvantage when it comes to competing against imports.

Having said that, the biggest challenges to Japanese agriculture are something more fundamental. First, due to the ageing society and the reluctance of the offspring of farmers to continue farmer, the number of farmers is going to drop significantly in the next 10-20 years. And that is largely unrelated to competition to imports.

Second, and probably most significantly, Japanese farmers / the farming industry have done nothing to address their biggest weakness: lack of economies of scale. While virtually ever farming town has a co-op, this is not the same as individual farmers having larger amounts of land to farm and / or herds to manage.

Truthfully, the Japanese farming industry needs to consolidate and, alas, this even means the necessity for the emergence of larger corporate-type farming entities.

Its either that or trying to compete in niche areas where product quality / brand recognition allows the products to be largely impervious to foreign imports.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

The price of milk is already cheaper than (bottled) water. That's unfair," he added. "If the government think it's okay to import 100 percent of the milk Japan consumes, then that's fine. When a food emergency occurs, they can enjoy chewing on steel car parts."

Another sign of how screwed up the economy is here. But let's not forget that your "butter" is over priced, and never enough in stock, which you the producers have purposely done, to keep prices artificially inflated while keeping out imports as well.

Let's not talk about cheese, and the fact that fewer Japanese are actually drinking milk and have turned to soy milk as well.

You make your bed, you better be prepared to sleep in it as well! I have no pity for those who keep shooting themselves in the foot! (Which you have done so many times, that I am surprised you can still walk!)

18 ( +21 / -3 )

Isn't Japan always saying they need help in many other labor sectors?

What gets me with vegetable farmers is when crops are bad, prices are high and farmers are subsidized. When crops are good, JA has the harvest in the field destroyed, prices are inflated, and become high again. It seems like all too good a deal. And so it is hard to have an ounce of compassion for these hard working folk.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

US beef is far superior to Japanese beef. It contains more meat than fat for one thing!

-3 ( +14 / -17 )

US beef is far superior to Japanese beef. It contains more meat than fat for one thing!

And more chemicals, which we all know are healthy for us.

5 ( +17 / -12 )

There is nothing special about the agriculture industry. They are in the business of producing and selling food. If you can't compete, find another job.

Kawai agreed, saying: "I wonder what the government is thinking about food safety and self-sufficiency rate."

They will do and say anything to get the govt. to protect them from competition, not because they care about the country, but because they care about their own profits, which is understandable, they are looking after their own interests, but the govt. should look after the interests of ALL citizens, not just a small group. It is in the best interest of Japanese people to have as much foreign competition as possible.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

US beef is far superior to Japanese beef. It contains more meat than fat

The fat is the best bit!

There has been cheaper beef available for years. Australian for example. American beef is not really seen as anything to get excited about - a mass product, cheaply reared.

I will still eat it though - even filet if there's no sirloin available.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

"Politicians are not thinking about us farmers at all."

It’s those cattle farmers who have voted for the LDP all these years.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

It is not about quality. Some people are saying US beef has more chemicals. That isn’t fully true. The style of beef is different and thus what they are used for and how they are consumed is different. Japanese beef doesn’t work well for roasts or large steaks. It’s a style of beef that benefits from small portions.

The real issue that these farmers are combating is that consumer tend to suffer greatly in Japan. They overcharge for everything. Even inferior quality items are considered high quality because it has the “Japan” label on it.

My biggest take away from this is the fact that I small bit of oxtail won’t cost me ¥6,000.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Ill add for security reasons a resource poor country like Japan needs to be able to grow its own food and livestock.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The deal "will be a further blow to small cow farmers like us who keep just 30 to 50 cows," said one dairy and beef cattle farmer in Kanagawa prefecture, south of Tokyo, speaking on condition of anonymity.

And there is your problem. I once did a homestay in New Zealand, at a small 'family farm' that was a farmer, his wife who'd help out, and two hired hands. They'd bring in homestayers from time to time, and it was some of the best tasting milk and dairy products I had in my life. Chemical free, organic milk.

Still, with only one family and two workers, they had a herd of over 400 cows that they'd milk twice a day. So the only way someone with 30-50 cows is able to keep up is simply due to being artificially propped up by the government.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

In land starved Japan raising cattle is not really a logical business!

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The US beef I can currently get in the store is like chewing on shoe leather, just like it was when I grew up in the US. I was amazed at how tender beef could be when I moved here. I hope it is not the end of Japanese beef.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

Abe didn't fear.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

"Politicians are not thinking about us farmers at all."

Pardon? Obtaining the votes of farmers with "subsidies" is how the LDP have maintained their control of Japan for the last 70 years. A vote in rural Kochi is worth around 2.4 votes in a Chiba bedtown.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

quercetum

Good point. Although Japan is rated as nearly 100% self sufficient regarding vital food stuffs, the depletion of the manufacturing sector would present an issue in the case of national emergency or war.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

BeerDeliveryGuy, Japan can't survive without neighbors, because the surrounding water. Japan needs build bridges and tunnels to the mainland just in case.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Good point. Although Japan is rated as nearly 100% self sufficient regarding vital food stuffs, the depletion of the manufacturing sector would present an issue in the case of national emergency or war.

I wonder where you pulled that number from? Wait dont tell me I know.

You are 100% wrong! Japan is not even 40% self-sufficient in food!

http://english.agrinews.co.jp/?p=8693

TOKYO, Aug. 9 ― Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate remained the second lowest level in 2017, due to steadily declining consumption of rice, the country’s staple food, and increasing meat imports, despite a recover of harvest in northern Japan.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Yubaru

yes, as of now it is more convenient to import certain foodstuffs, however the rice growing and fishing sector are still producing surplus and I doubt European cheeses and Tapioca are part of strategic reserves.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

BeerDeliveryGuy, Japan can't survive without neighbors, because the surrounding water. 

The presence of that surrounding water is probably the main reason Japan has been able to keep its national identity for so long, despite having bad neighbors.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Maybe stop electing LDP then? hmm?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

For the sake of Wa, the micromanaging authorities here will work assiduously to ensure that after all the middlemen take their cut, there’ll be little price differential between imports and the products of the cosseted domestic farm lobby. Same old, same old.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

"We were able to maintain a market for our products in competition with the TPP members, because our beef quality is good enough to compete, even if imported beef was cheaper," said Harumi Yoshikawa, an official in charge of livestock at an agricultural cooperative in Hokkaido. "But American beef rivals ours in terms of quality and in that sense we are worried."

For decades they,ve been banging on about how Japanese beef ( and everything else ) is much superior quality and suddenly US beef is on par in quality? ( but not the TPP member ones ? ) Just a piss poor justification to ask LDP for more handouts.

"Japanese beef may be delicious and offer a sense of safety to consumers, but U.S. beef is absolutely cheaper, and that's attractive to some," Kawai said.

Make up your mind, so which is it ..are you "worried because US beef is the same quality or cause its cheaper. It will still have a 26% tarriff on it that J-beef doesnt.

"If the government think it's okay to import 100 percent of the milk Japan consumes, then that's fine. When a food emergency occurs, they can enjoy chewing on steel car parts."

Typical Showa era oyaji nonsense.....chewing steel parts....or the J -govt could just import milk in case of your fantasy " food emergency " from other plentiful countries ...its 2019 after all not 1919.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I'll just point out that Japanese livestock raised on imported feed is a very poor example of "food security".

8 ( +8 / -0 )

"Politicians are not thinking about us farmers at all."

It’s those cattle farmers who have voted for the LDP all these years.

Patently untrue...there is no other vested interest group in Japan that has benefited more than the farmers ( along with J-inc bigwigs of course ) from being in bed with LDP politicians.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Better be so... Japanese meat is freaking expensive and full of fat. Totally un-meaty... The problem is that American meat is no way better: steroid based. But eventually you got to eat something and in this city there is nothing really eatable: raw stuff, fried crap and shovels over shovels of rice. No cheesa, no ham, no pizza, vegetable and fruits at stellar prices...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Free the farmers, get rid of all the co-ops, push these old guys into retirement and let farmers do business.

The future of agriculture in Japan is strawberries and greenhouse grown vegetables.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I love all beef, even though American beef is tastier. But the issues for me are the cuts. Japanese butchers just do not know how to cut the meat correctly. They butcher the butchering. I don't want a steak for the BBQ that is a centimeter thick. I want 33cm. That way a medium rare steak will deliver a lot of blood which I love to dip French bread in with lots of butter and salt. I enjoy the blood just as much as the meat and my kids do as well.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Farmers in general are on a very short leash held by JA who are connected to the LDP.

They are panicking now they are getting a monicommon of competition, outdated farming practices and a hitherto closed market have protected them and their antiquated practices.

They need a change its long over due. Disbanding the JA would go a long way to improving Japan's food production.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

"Japanese beef may be delicious and offer a sense of safety to consumers, but U.S. beef is absolutely cheaper, and that's attractive to some," Kawai said.

Yes especially for restaurant industry that will try to drive cost down after tax hike. US beef just way to good for cost reduction.

U.S. and Japanese officials insist a hard-won bilateral trade deal will be a "win-win"

Say good bye to trade barrier it's time for real free-trade.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Yeah right, you have been drinking the koolaid too long too! It's because of farmers like you that charge ungodly amounts of money for your product that you are in this situation now.

> Far too many ranchers and producers here have over charged the consumers for so many years, and have failed to keep up with the times, and now WE the consumers will FINALLY have a choice!

agree

Typical Showa era oyaji nonsense.....chewing steel parts....or the J -govt could just import milk in case of your fantasy " food emergency " from other plentiful countries ...its 2019 after all not 1919.

You said it brother!!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Time to shape up or moove out. Those fat-cat farmers have been screwing consumers long enough.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Love US beef and American steakhouses.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I'll be sticking to Japanese & Australian beef. Though I won't mind about the US beef, so long as it's clearly labelled so that I can avoid it.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Aust, NZ beef happy cow happy BBQ. Japanese farmers never going to compete with American farmers need to specialist foods. Quality over quantity is the only hope.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The Japanese government is still trying to resolve its domestic economic issues with imports and export markets that no longer exist for Japan. They fail to realize that every imported product sees more money leaving Japan. Unless Japan’s economic policies evolve to a new world order Japan is doomed!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

but some Japanese cattle farmers fear the agreement could sound the death knell for their embattled sector.

How is it embattled when it has always been protected with high tarifffs on imports and will always be protected one way or the other.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

What is more imported beef going to mean in terms of fossil fuel use and environmental degradation, that's what I want to know. As far as I am concerned, beef is a luxury item and it does not need to be transported over the world's largest ocean, using refridgeration, to a country that produces plenty of its own as far as I am concerned. Human inability to think on these terms is why we are likely doomed.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

There is no reason to worry. China will consume a lot Japanese beefs, as long as the quality is good and high.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

We were able to maintain a market for our products in competition with the TPP members, because our beef quality is good enough to compete, even if imported beef was cheaper," said Harumi Yoshikawa, an official in charge of livestock at an agricultural cooperative in Hokkaido. 

Mr Yoshikawa, with tariffs of 26 percent after the TPP, imported beef is still not cheaper, the price tag you place on your beef is ridiculously high making foreign beef seem like cheap. Isn't it insanity that 100gm of beef cost 10,000yen.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I always pull for the locals in agriculture. But also in manufacturing. And this is where Japan whipped USA years ago with cars. USA car industry seems to be doing okay, but I don’t know. Old zones above is right.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

But Japanese experts question whether the country's negotiators have done enough to protect local farmers.

Farmers make just 1%, how about for a change protect the remaining 99% from being contiuously screwed by 1% under the pretext of national security.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

It is possible that people who do not normally buy beef could buy inexpensive American beef. The market might expand with little impact to Japanese farmers.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The price of milk is already cheaper than (bottled) water. That's unfair," he added. "If the government think it's okay to import 100 percent of the milk Japan consumes, then that's fine. When a food emergency occurs, they can enjoy chewing on steel car parts."

Ridiculous, fake info.

There isn't anywhere in Japan that milk is cheaper than water. One litre of the cheapest 100% milk (per japanese standard) in supermarkets is 168-178yen. Milk products which is water colored with milk that sell for 98yen per litre pack are not milk.

Some years ago there was excess milk but instead of selling the milk thousands of tonnes of milk was discarded so that the price of milk in the market shouldn't drop and benefit consumers, now they are running around crying seeking sympathy from consumers, the very consumers that they never cared about and have been screwing.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"But American beef rivals ours in terms of quality and in that sense we are worried."

I disagree. Just looking at decent Japanese beef compared with imported beef one can see and taste the difference. If Japanese beef comes down in price to a level similar or slightly higher than imported beef Ill buy the Japanese beef overtime over that of the imported beef. However the problem is decent Japanese beef just keeps going up in price. Supermarkets are milking the imported beef because it could be even lower than it currently is. I also never ever buy beef unless its been discounted by at least 30% otherwise its just ridiculously expensive! I think supermarkets are half of Japan beef producers problems with no getting their product sold...they are simply too greedy!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

That was ABE's betrayal, that's whtat you got when you naïve farmers trusting the LDP, the traitors of Japan!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Human inability to think on these terms is why we are likely doomed.

As is having my point that everyone has already forgotten about Greta Thunberg deleted. People won't start remembering until they have been reminded enough times how damn forgetful they are. FFS.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Gretna rocks

0 ( +1 / -1 )

US beef is far superior to Japanese beef. It contains more meat than fat for one thing!

I have to agree, and its not to bash Japan. I have heard that Japan supermarket beef (not wagu or kobe) is actually old Holstein cows that are slaughtered. Makes sense, very cost effective. Having eaten that stuff for a long time, then getting access to some NZ, Aussie or US Angus, I can actually taste the grass fed beef in it. Ive seen cows in Japan put in pens, fed dry feed, and no access to pasture. Kind of sad really, but protectionism here is ridiculous. Keep for the mfg sector but let the agri wide open; no use in punishing the Japanese with crap to eat everyday.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Manufacturing, including the auto industry, is seen as the main driver of Japan's economic growth, accounting for roughly 20 percent of nominal GDP.

and there you have it, J agriculture account for less than 1% of japans GDP yet consumes roughly 6% of the annual budget!. Then Japanese farmers have the cheek to say the J govenerment isnt looking out for them. Sorry J farmers had years to get themselves competitive, J manufacturing had to do it to survive even though they've lost an estimated 8 million jobs to cheaper Asian countries over the last 25yrs they still are a viable industry employing millions of workers and all the government taxes and revenue it generates. J agriculture is basically a welfare industry than needs massive government subsidies to survive meaning they generate 0 revenue for the government. 5 trillion + yen spent on J agriculture would be better spent on the health and pension system at least it would benefit all of Japan and not just a few farmers.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A quality product is always most expensive. Beef in Japan is no doubt higher quality and homegrown. Unless beef imported into Japan from the US is under 2yrs old then it is a bargain cost wise because the beef is tender. However aside I still prefer the much juicier and soft Japanese beef despite the cost. If a person really wants good beef then they will pay for it regardless of where it is from.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Bilateral trade deal will be a "win-win" is ideal but about cattle farming isn't when quality becomes priority matter. Japanese cow beef can be the best and very expensive ones to the market. US beef would be very competitive with Australian or others when the prices are displayed. US-Japan bilateral trade, TPP with Australia and national cow meat will be on the shelves to be differentiated by quality and prices. Well, that's the market, probably the "win-win" not to the customer when quality and prices are offered...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

On the subject of pawns in trade deals, a far larger number of people were sold out in the 1960s when Japan opened up to timber imports. That is why the countryside is covered in mostly worthless and largely abandoned conifer plantations, which do not support wildlife, do not stabilize hillsides against landslides, and throw out vast clouds of pollen, one of Japan's costliest and most unnecessary health problems.

Compared to forestry, livestock farmers in Japan is a tiny minority who do not deserve special protection.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

That way a medium rare steak will deliver a lot of blood which I love to dip French bread in with lots of butter and salt. I enjoy the blood just as much as the meat and my kids do as well.

By the way, it's not blood! Quite a common misconception too!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It is possible that people who do not normally buy beef could buy inexpensive American beef. The market might expand with little impact to Japanese farmers.

Funny, you always complain about American "junk", now you jump on the "America" bandwagon!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

And more chemicals, which we all know are healthy for us.

This is utterly wrong and based on disinformation and silly beliefs. A kilogram of meat produced in Japan contains twice as much pharmaceuticals as that produced in USA. Also 59% of Japanese chicken contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria. So Japanese produced meat is not safer than other countries.

Japanese meat as well as all farm produced food (vegetables, fruits) are just low quality and terribly overpriced. Nobody objective enough can argue against that.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"But American beef rivals ours in terms of quality and in that sense we are worried."

So quality that when you go to cook it you find the filler liquid spilling out.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Japanese cattle farmers fear U.S. trade deal will be death knell

I'm sure that Japanese cattle farmers are intelligent enough to know that this day had to come.

Many of Japans tariff reductions are phased (dropping over a number of years) giving Japanese farmers time to re-structure.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As an American living in Japan I'm not sure you have to worry. The quality of Japanese food is far superior and I gladly pay more.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

So manufacturing and agriculture are just 21% of the economy and probably both are declining compared to services, so why all the handwringing? Abe should focus on increasing productivity in the service sector where there is so much fat.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Stop moaning, and think now about how to be more efficient and productive. Japanese farmers can do it.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Japan's problem has always been greedy businesses. In some ways, Japanese beef and produce are superior, but they are also grossly over priced. Not everything is top tier price. Pricing should be natural based on supply and demand. Not this artificial manipulation of prices.

Didn't we just read about a cabal of student uniform retailers getting caught doing the same thing?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

And yet Wagyu is more expensive in the US than Japan. It’s all marketing about taste and quality, but the reality doesn’t have to match the hype.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yubaru, I will not buy certain American products. The USA has gone big SUV and truck happy. Again and again am not anti American. I am just not mindless pro American,

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

"ll add for security reasons a resource poor country like Japan needs to be able to grow its own food and livestock."

If you are worried about that, having steak raised in Japan wouldn't maximize Japan's food production in a calorie sense. However, maybe they should pay farmers a certain minimum amount to keep their fields ready while allowing food imports. Win-win and paying the farmers wouldn't cost as much (tax money) as the higher food prices end up costing everyone.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japanese beef and American beef are so different, I can't imagine one simply replacing the other. People will buy the style that they like. I never liked American beef, but Japanese beef is delicious. That wouldn't change just because one got cheaper.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I know the issue here is what Japanese farmers charge the local populace. Now they'll have to cut their exorbitant prices to stay competitive. $100 usd for a watermelon? Strawberries?

As an American living in Japan I'm not sure you have to worry. The quality of Japanese food is far superior and I gladly pay more.

That's like advocating for price gouging. There is a difference between paying more due to demand/availability, and paying more just because the farmers want to make more money and artificially jacking the prices to astronomical amounts that are unsustainable.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The USA has gone big SUV and truck happy.

Amen, to that. God forbid they should just build a regular station wagon. I drive a Ford Fusion sedan, because they only offer a wagon in Europe (as the Mondeo). Here in the U.S., I have to buy an SUV to get that same functionality.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I like both American beef and Japanese beef. For Shabu Shabu you cannot beat Japanese style marbled beef, though I could buy similar marbled and thinly cut American beef when I lived in California. On the other hand, Outback Steakhouse, which I presume uses Australian beef, in my opinion is dry and not my preference.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They'll have to find something else to do. Like U.S. auto workers did when sales of Japanese cars started taking off.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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