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Japanese butter on the table in Pacific trade talks

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But the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has drawn the ire of Japan’s politically powerful agriculture lobby and sparked public protests by farmers over fears it will mean an onslaught of cheaper foreign imports.

Boo hoo.

8 ( +15 / -7 )

I don't know about butter, but apples are between 250-500 Yen each in Japan.(depending on thea area you are in.) Apples are between $.79 - $2.00 a pound in the U.S.

16 ( +20 / -4 )

The sooner TPP gets adopted, the better. I am sick of paying ridiculous prices in Japan.

21 ( +26 / -6 )

Brandon:

I don't know about butter, but apples are between 250-500 Yen each in Japan.(depending on thea area you are in.) Apples are between $.79 - $2.00 a pound in the U.S.

But, those are inferior, foreign apples! Japan only sells the best - naturally, Japanese apples - of course. They taste more "oishii", you know /sarcasm.

9 ( +16 / -8 )

Not to mention that the hybrid Japanese Fuji apples are not particularly flavourful IMO. I'd love to be able to buy a nice sour Granny Smith apple in Japan someday.

14 ( +15 / -2 )

Why doesn't Japan just buy butter directly from New Zealand - they have GREAT butter - without all the hassle of TPP?

As a more intelligent mind than mine stated, TPP = Total Power Play.

1% gains as 99% of us suffer.

5 ( +11 / -6 )

I am also sick of paying ridiculous prices in Japan for vegetables and fruits, sick!

I do understand that farmers in any country need to live from their work, but in Japan they just went too far (distributors having also their share of responsibilities). This an organized racket of consumers, they just don't charge a fair price for fruits and vegetables. The reality is that we get to pay high prices for low quality. I mean a totally basic Apple for more than 200 Yens each is insane. I bought the other day a melon for 1000 Yen, it was basically totally melted inside. A peach for 300-500 Yens each, sold not mature enough (some are sold more expensive that that). A few tiny strawberries or cherries sold between 600 and 1000 yen. Tiny lettuces sold more almost 200 Yens each or sometimes more. Basically we have to deal with outrageous prices for any kind of fruits, and most begetables. Which by the way is also true for meat and milk.

That's enough. Japanese farmers can't produce enough good quality vegetables and fruits for the country but with the help of government, those "gangsters" locked the market with the result that apathetic Japanese consumers are paying ridiculous prices for small and poor quality products. In fact Japanese are so easy to cheat that's depressing, they still think that they are being sold good quality products.

Enough with this.

20 ( +21 / -2 )

The JA Mafia.

As a wedding gift, a Japanese man bought a bunch Ruby Roman grapes at a JA sanctioned auction for 550,000 yen. And since then, the value for a bunch of the same grapes has held steady at around 100,000 yen. For grapes.

Then at another JA auction, farmers were upset they could fetch only 2,000 yen for a watermelon. There are luxury fruit sellers that regularly sell 1 apple for 12 dollars or 12 strawberries for 40 dollars or some melons for as much as 140 dollars.

They don't sell this high because of taste, they sell this high because the JA can decide how much they want to rip you off for. They have very well protected monopoly on the market.

Give me fruit at reasonable, competitive prices or give me death!

11 ( +12 / -1 )

FINALLY some common sense being spoken in this article, and an admittance of the facts regarding the aging, small farming lobby and agricultural sector having too much power and that if let be would be its own demise. Hurry up and join the TPP and allow cheaper products into the market. I GUARANTEE that most Japanese will stick to Japanese produced products as much as possible -- and especially rice, as they claim it is superior when it is not -- and likewise I also guarantee Japanese exports will increase. Yes, some people will buy cheaper, but the bottom line is that there will be OPTIONS for those who want them. No one is forcing people to buy imports, but not allowing them to is ridiculous, especially when there are shortages and things are extremely overpriced as the are.

No pity for the farmers who aren't willing to become competitive and want to demand handouts and government subsidies despite not doing their jobs well enough and not producing as demanded. If they can't take it up a notch and become competitive, let them die out.

3 ( +7 / -5 )

Why do Japanese need butter anyway? Butter was never originally a food source in Japan. They ought to stick to raw fish and seaweed. You don't hear about Chinese, Thais, Cambodians, Vietnamese, et al. complaining about a butter shortage. Guess what? They don't need it and probably never will. It's like France lamenting the lack of chicken chow mein or something.

-7 ( +7 / -15 )

How about corn on the cob?!!! We used to get 10-12 ears for a dollar in season in NW Pennsylvania when I was a kid. Could pick it yourself. I would eat 4-5 big ears by myself as a 6 y.o. kid. In Japan I gotta pay at least 100 yen for a small ear and they act like they are doing me a favor.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

The problem is more in other countries as I see it since Agriculture produce is priced so low, farmers can't make a decent living and they subsist or they sell out and giant industrial farms are creates that use unsustainable practices. Only when we value the quality of our food, the environment and the lives of the farmers will we create a better agricultural model and this won't come from spiral down trade deals such as the TPP.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Actually, the only way the Japanese will willingly buy foreign produce (not Chinese) will be if they have those side-walk taste tests and people have to sample food not knowing where it comes from. When the majority say "oiiiiishiiiiiii" over and over for imported foods, they'll get the idea... but well, you gotta have some so-called "talents" give their 2 cents and then the whole country will follow... but I guess this will never ever happen in my life time...I must be dreaming.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

All symptoms of centrally-planned foolishness that we consumers pay for, to the enrichment of cronyists.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

That goes for ALL dairy, especially cheese & (how about some decent) yoghurt. Don't even get me started on wheat or fruit!

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Japan has been grappling with a severe butter shortage that critics say highlights a bigger problem with the country’s protected agricultural sector, a key sticking point in high-profile trade talks this week in Hawaii.

The Japan Dairy Association has warned that butter demand will outstrip supply by more than 7,000 tons this year, prompting the government to resort to emergency imports to fill the gap.

Absolutely insane that the above is true in the "world's third largest economy". For the Japanese population to allow themselves to be held hostage for the benefit of such a small -- make that tiny -- fraction of the population, primarily for political reasons, is simply insane. Just another example of how completely broken the Japan Inc. model is. "Emergency imports" of butter -- LOL.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Why doesn't Japan just buy butter directly from New Zealand - they have GREAT butter - without all the hassle of TPP?

Geez this coming from the person who is an advocate of buying local (over-priced) produce. Now another song being sung.

As a more intelligent mind than mine stated, TPP = Total Power Play.

More intelligent? Less is more like it, free trade, while making some folks wealthier also lowers daily costs of the average consumer and in Japan with costs and subsidies being overly high due to the government trying to protect a dying (literally by age) industry you would have everyone suffer.......

Who is more intelligent?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The TPP is 20% trade and 80% about sharing information, financial restrictions, taxation, and draconian copyright enforcement.

But maybe Stalin was right. People will happily trade their freedom for a little butter.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Wow, I guess no one here has really thought about where their food comes. With this supposed JA racket... well, let's put it this way: How many farmers do you see driving around in BMW's? Have you seen any farmer with a nicer home than these guys working at these capital research firms that know so much about agriculture? You'd think there'd be loads of rich farmers when they're selling grapes for $1000 or even just an apple for $12.

Heck with all that money, why is there such a shortage of farmers nowadays? Truth is: it's hard work. And risky. And is extremely capital-intensive. And no one appreciates what you're doing. You know why our fruits and vegetables are so cheap in America (or anywhere that isn't restricted)? It's called slave--woops, I mean, migrant labor. And it includes child labor. Yes, in the U.S., you're allowed to 'help' your parents (or migrant farm-worker parents) work the fields.

I don't like paying $1+ for an ear of corn when I can get it for 10 cents in America, but the TPP will decimate a great deal of the farm families in Japan. And once they're gone, well, welcome in the GMO's and all that slave-labor produce. Free trade sounds nice but it'll equalize not just prices, but entire standards of living. When you're on the upper end of things such as Japan, there's only one direction left to go.

But don't take it from me, next time you see that old lady with the terribly bent back walking down the street, hit her up for some cash. She's loaded.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I can't believe it's not butter convincing people to support the TPP. If it's such a great deal show the document, until then democracy is a thing of the past along with nation states sovereignty.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Hey people its not about the taste of the fruits or the rice that people don't want the imported one. Which is basically American or Chinese. Its about if it is safe to eat. The Chinese quality fruits which was probably washed with factory waste water and the American DNA alternated products who noone knows what kind of side effects they have. I am not paying any money, even a much cheaper price to kill myself.

-3 ( +3 / -5 )

As a more intelligent mind than mine stated, TPP = Total Power Play.

Yawn.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I like Japanese fruits and vegetables. They taste great.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

I don't know about butter, but apples are between 250-500 Yen each in Japan.(depending on thea area you are in.) Apples are between $.79 - $2.00 a pound in the U.S.

You don't know about apples either. Chez cleo we eat a lot of fruit and never, not once, ever, have I paid as much as 250 yen for a single apple. 500 yen for a bag of four is around average. That's a lot more than it could be, but let's not exaggerate.

How about corn on the cob?!!! ..... I would eat 4-5 big ears by myself as a 6 y.o. kid. In Japan I gotta pay at least 100 yen for a small ear and they act like they are doing me a favor.

Your parents weren't doing you any favors letting you guzzle six big sticks of high-calorie corn at the age of six.

-6 ( +4 / -11 )

cheese and real bacon please.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

@siniestro

Here we go again with the Chinese and American argument. Look, just go to Europe, a lot of the production of vegetables and fruits is done there, the quality is way better (including for the part which is imported) and the safety is also better than Japan. But people pay way less than in Japan. The uncomfortable truth is that people are ripped off in Japan by a bunch of crooks, they really are.

The safety argument is not valid at all because I can pay for 200 yen a kilo of apples in Europe and they are as safe as the single apple they are selling me here for the same price but with lower quality. The two melons that I can buy there for 500-600 yen are as safe and are better than the single melon they are selling me here for a much higher price (often several thousands of yen). You can basically say the same thing for all overpriced vegetables and fruits sold here.

So you maybe guessed it but the safety argument doesn't hold water at all.

5 ( +8 / -2 )

"siniestro at Jul. 29, 2015 - 09:58PM JST Hey people its not about the taste of the fruits or the rice that people don't want the imported one. Which is basically American or Chinese. Its about if it is safe to eat. The Chinese quality fruits which was probably washed with factory waste water and the American DNA alternated products who noone knows what kind of side effects they have. I am not paying any money, even a much cheaper price to kill myself." Well Japanese people seem not to trust Japanese fruit and veg either. My ex-partner couldn't understand why I would eat fruit with skins (apples, grapes etc). Apparently most Japanese people never eat the skin because it's full of chemicals.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The problem is more in other countries as I see it since Agriculture produce is priced so low, farmers can't make a decent living and they subsist or they sell out and giant industrial farms are creates that use unsustainable practices. Only when we value the quality of our food, the environment and the lives of the farmers will we create a better agricultural model and this won't come from spiral down trade deals such as the TPP.

Yes, there is a crisis in dairy farming in the UK, not due to imports but to a virtual supermarket monopoly as milk purchasers. The price of milk is so low that dairy farmers are going out of business at an alarming rate. Soon there will so few dairy farms that the price will go through the roof. The current system is not sustainable.

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jan/12/dairy-industry-crisis-falling-milk-prices-national-farmers-union

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

You don't know about apples either. Chez cleo we eat a lot of fruit and never, not once, ever, have I paid as much as 250 yen for a single apple. 500 yen for a bag of four is around average. That's a lot more than it could be, but let's not exaggerate.

I totally believe you when you say you never paid more than 250 yen for an apple, but they do sell some variants of apples that they claim are better at a price higher than 500 yen each. I saw it no later than today in the supermarket, it was around 520 yen, I don't remember the variant name. They definitely looked better than the Aomori apples which were sold for 213 yen each but at 520 yen, I just imagined the ugly face of the oyaji trying to rip me off with this price and hated him a lot.

And by the way, Japanese farmers are heavily subsidized here, with our tax money. But they still charge insane prices the same people (us) that pay for their subsidies. What to say more....

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@kawabegawa

"The sooner TPP gets adopted, the better. I am sick of paying ridiculous prices in Japan." Yes Japan is expensive cos every1 and there mother need a slice of the pie. BUT joining the TTP and going to royal shaft Japan and wipe out the middle class. Interesting comment its like a short cut to thinking.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Wow. So many people willing to sell their privacy, a degree of freedom, and the middle class, all for some cheaper butter and fruit.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

I'm no fan of TPP, but protectionism has failed Japan's agriculture, rationed butter is just the first step, how long before milk and rice is "one per customer"? A radical overhaul is needed before it gets too late.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Maybe. But that's like cutting off your nose because there is a pimple on it.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

'That' being the TPP

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'm with lolozo79.

You don't need butter. It's just not Japanese. It's just another one of those stupid marketing scams like White Day for chocolates and aping the West.

If AFP did they homework, they'd find out that not so long ago farmer were having to kill of 10,000s of cattle because the market was so poor.

There is a secondary problem "the market" is going to ignore. If they kill off the Japanese farmer (and forester) with cheap imports, they kill off the Japanese countryside as well, as it's farming communities which sustain it.

Or incur a new cost of maintaining.

Japan suffers two severe disadvantages, the nature of landscape and the nature of the post-war land re-distribution the USA enforced (all those tiny packages of land handed out to peasant farmers).

The prices actually probably reflect a fair cost of production while allowing farmers a reasonable standard of living.

Of course, if you are used to fruit picked by exploited Mexican day labor, or imported from development nations where it is picked by indentured labor without rights, then it might appear a little more costly. And if you never get off the base or outside of a Shibuya bar, then the countryside and its costs may not seem relevant.

While there is some valid criticism of JA to make, do farmers not deserve a living?

One has to see things in the bigger picture.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Japan's message to its TPP partner: "You buy our products, but we will never buy your's, now let's just sign on the dot".

-1 ( +4 / -6 )

What's so frustrating about this is that while Japan at it's current population will never be food self-sufficient, it needn't be half as bad as it is. With fewer and fewer farmers, it's mind-boggling that they haven't adopted larger scale planting and increased mechanization with larger machinery. The typical Japanese agricultural plot is a hectare or less. We call this "truck gardening" in the U.S. and it's classified by the U.N. as "intensive gardening." Hell, commercial flower farms use bigger plots here than they use for growing vegetables and, especially, rice in Japan.

Dairy consumption in Japan is less than half what it is in the U.S. and less even than India. There is no reason Japan can't produce enough milk for drinking, butter, yogurt, cheese, etc. Northern Tohoku and Hokkaido have a humid continental climate, which means there is sufficient moisture and cooler temperatures throughout the year, both conducive to dairy farming.

BluesReeJUL. 30, 2015 - 12:40AM JST I'm no fan of TPP, . . . how long before . . . rice is "one per customer"?

It's no longer at the levels it got to in the 1980s, but that's unlikely as Japan has been over-producing rice for about 30 years now because of the protected market. Sadly, the government couldn't even be bothered to sell the surplus abroad at a loss to help offset the domestic subsidies.

Adoption of the TPP won't so much force Japan to change agricultural practices as it will hasten the death of what little domestic dairy farming there is because Japan has failed to act for so long.

Protectionism can be justified in the short run in order to develop an industry from scratch that has a legitimate chance of thriving once established. The problem with Japan, of course, is that it has protected too many inefficient industries for too long that never had any natural comparative or absolute advantages.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Not enough butter, but arguably too much butter face.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I remember when many Japanese would call things that stink, バター臭い。 Butter kusai. Meaning, it stinks like butter. I've also seen Japanese almost heave at the smell of cheese. Wow, as a liver of all things dairy, I'm glad to see Japan needing more dairy products. I have a friend from Gunma Ken whose family used to run a small dairy farm. Alas, they sold out about 20 years ago. I surely do not know what's best, all I know is I'm pulling for both the Japanese farmer, actually, all farmers, and for the consumer at the same time. I hope something good for all concerned comes out of this mess.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

butter shortage is a red herring. This is about corporate control of markets and all intellectual property over governments and countries. Serfs vs Corporations.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

If all countries had a scientific tariff treaty with each other that brought prices to reflect living wage for producers that would be better. The tariff would then be given to the producers and not the govt. Unfortunately, TPP is just another big corporate scheme and will depress wages to lowest common denominator.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

GyGeneJUL. 30, 2015 - 03:07AM JST I remember when many Japanese would call things that stink, バター臭い。 Butter kusai. Meaning, it stinks like butter.

So, you were in Japan in the early 20th Century? Butter kusai indeed has the meaning that something smells unpleasant to a Japanese, but the more common usage was that something was "too Western" as Westerners were said to "smell of butter." (I tell my wife alternately that she smells of rice or shoyu.)

I surely do not know what's best, all I know is I'm pulling for both the Japanese farmer, actually, all farmers, and for the consumer at the same time. I hope something good for all concerned comes out of this mess.

Farmers are typically some of the most conservative people in any society and have, since the 20th Century, mostly enjoyed a great deal of economic protection. I would say that the Japanese, American and French farmers in particular enjoy more economic assistance, typically in the forms of price supports/subsidies or import protection, than do many other sectors of the economy. The French and Japanese, mostly to their detriment, do more for the "family farmer" than we do in the U.S., while we give way too much protection and assistance to agri-business. As with many things, the best policy lies somewhere in the middle. But Japan is a somewhat special case because the country is over-populated, arable land is limited (though not to the extreme most people believe) and because Japanese farming is barely out the 19th Century.

The LDP just didn't care for about 50 gravy years about how productive domestic agriculture was or could be as long as the rural gerrymander they constructed kept returning them to office year after year. As I said in my other comment above, for many sector of agricultural in Japan, TPP or no TPP, it may just be too late. Change has been resisted for too long and there has been little to no pressure from above to change. Change will surely come now, but likely without improvement to domestic production.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The agriculture sector has always been proteced in the whole world. Its not that easy for Japan. The first thing that could happen is that a large mobs starts dropping apples in the streat as a protest

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Jumin RheeJUL. 30, 2015 - 03:46AM JST If all countries had a scientific tariff treaty with each other that brought prices to reflect living wage for producers that would be better.

Tariffs are the problem as they mostly protect inefficient industries and high tariffs hurt domestic consumers of the goods or services of the protected industries.

Unfortunately, TPP is just another big corporate scheme and will depress wages to lowest common denominator.

Mostly true. In contemporary capitalism, thanks to advanced transportation and communication, capital is much more mobile than it once was and technological resources are now global.

The old limiters of comparative advantage and absolute advantage don't much apply anymore. You can now pretty much manufacture anything anywhere as long as the society is reasonably stable (it doesn't even need to be all that law-abiding - China) and there is sufficient and reliable electricity.

China has no real manufacturing advantages of any kind (the technology is almost all Western) other than there being too many Chinese who are willing to work for lower wages. China has a comparative advantage over other grossly over-populated nations (like India) in that it has better infrastructure and is closer to the largest market in the world (in term of per capita consumer spending). However, its wage advantage is now beginning to diminish and China is in that stage where it must develop more robust domestic consumption (unlikely) to sustain growth, as increasing exports can only happen with suppressing wages or if NA and Europe were somehow able to sustain economic growth of 5% or more for a number of years. This will never, can't happen in mature economies unless their populations increase dramatically. That's not going to happen (see Japan).

As the manufacturing of consumer goods is already mostly done in low wage nations, I'm not sure there is much left to rush to the bottom with.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I usually get beautiful looking apples here for 100 yen a piece. Crispy, crunchy and no blemishes. Celery is a rip off though, so go to Costco for that. Other fruits fabulous. Plus everything is clean. I like that.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Also the USA wants Canada to drop its local market boards so it's not just Japan that is being asked to drop all its farmer support for cheap labour and products. As bad as things are, selling out the country and its workers isn't how to solve this. A sudden removal of support would decimate the industry and I wouldn't be surprised if it put those in it on social assistance.

However the difference is that people would have at least paid for their product to support their industry versus no income and social assistance. It may seem to be 6 1/2 dozen of the other but it's an important difference as the former at least pays into the subsidy for the industry. But under TPP, Corporations get 100% of the profits and Governments get 100% of the losses. By opening up industries the taxpayer will be paying more to support these new unemployed with the country having no more means of paying or partially paying for it without being sued under TPP. A lose-lose situation.

It's not good for any country and sells people industries and societies off to corporations. They are not societies.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

they do sell some variants of apples that they claim are better at a price higher than 500 yen each.

"They" sell all kinds of stuff at all kinds of outrageous prices. I've seen eggs priced at 250 yen apiece, but that doesn't mean 'eggs in Japan cost 250 yen each'. My local Coop sells organic free range for 350yen for a pack of ten, and if you're happy with factory-farmed eggs from caged birds fed on cheap GMOs, the supermarket has them stacked high for 100 to 150 yen per pack.

You don't need butter

People should only be allowed to buy absolute basic essentials? I'm not buying that.

Of course, if you are used to fruit picked by exploited Mexican day labor, or imported from development nations where it is picked by indentured labor without rights,.......

A very valid point.

.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

and if you're happy with factory-farmed eggs from caged birds fed on cheap GMOs

You honestly believe that the more expensive eggs come from chickens not factory-farmed and fed on cheap GMOs?! You don't really know Japan.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

@daito_hak

I am from Europe. Where I lived you could buy a bag full of oranges for 100 yen. Same with apples. They will give you one or two for free just to try them.

You can imaging my shock coming here and see these prices. But still I don't want those cheap american fruits that we all know how they are produced and how much they care about the peoples health. Its all about money for their corps.

Ever wonder why they don't bring many fruits from Europe here since its as cheap as americans? Its all about deals.

Do you know that in that TPP pack they have the right to force the government to import the fruit without checking them? Supposedly for not disrupting their sales by staling the products. Why would they scared of something like that if they were safe?

The are going to do the same in Europe too, with their next economical pack between EU and US.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

I am from Europe. Where I lived you could buy a bag full of oranges for 100 yen. Same with apples. They will give you one or two for free just to try them.

At a street market, maybe. Not at a supermarket.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Jeff Huffman

What's so frustrating about this is that while Japan at it's current population will never be food self-sufficient

That's not quite a complete statement. What would be more accurate is, "Japan at it's current population will never be food self-sufficient if it continues to follow the trend towards a Westernized diet".

Part of the problem is, it's the foreign corporations and governments who are pushing for the changes for the sake of their financial interests, not Japan's best interests. Corporate interests which have been proven not to have an interest in the environment, workers, nor even sovereign rights (and economic interests) of smaller nations. I'm thinking of the history of the likes of United Fruit Company etc.

If it tended back towards a traditional diet, Japan would be surprisingly self-sufficient. Indeed, it could make a transition back towards self-sufficiency far less painfully than most other developed nations all of which base their nutritional supply on the exploitation of distant and less developed nations.

Japan is seen as a rich consumer market that foreign corporations and governments, from Hermes down to New Zealand diary farmers, are greedy to get their hands on and manipulate to their own benefit.

You may not like the high price of Japanese fruit, but are you willing to pay for the upkeep of the countryside if you destroy Japanese agriculture?

Sure as hell the dairy farmers don't care as long as they can dump their cheap produce as their market in West declines.

Local environmental and social sustainability should be the guiding principles but try and get the morons who want their burgers and ice cream the same the world over, and now, to understand that.

The final price you also reflects the cost of land and property in the cities you live in.

Try getting out into the countryside and discovering the real prices

1 ( +1 / -0 )

newyorknewyorkJUL. 30, 2015 - 09:56PM JST That's not quite a complete statement. What would be more accurate is, "Japan at it's current population will never be food self-sufficient if it continues to follow the trend towards a Westernized diet".

New to Japan are you? The Japanese have been consuming a heavily Westernized diet for more than 40 years. Even before WWII, when Japan's diet was still largely "traditional," Japan was importing rice from Manchuria and wheat from elsewhere for, primarily, noodles. In my mind, and I would guess in the minds of most Japanese, ramen is as traditionally Japanese as onigiri.

http://tinyurl.com/Nihon-tabemono

Part of the problem is, it's the foreign corporations and governments who are pushing for the changes for the sake of their financial interests, not Japan's best interests.

Nothing new here. However, Japanese food giants are now import oriented firms who don't care a lick about domestic agriculture. There are few real nationalists in the boardrooms of transnational corporations. Again, the Japanese find themselves in a dicey situation entirely of their own making. Japan's under-performing agricultural sector is entirely the fault of the LDP and the Japanese voters, gerrymander or not, who returned them to office year after year. This is somewhat understandable. Why would anyone question nearly 40 years of uninterrupted economic growth. Anyone suggesting that the success couldn't be sustained or that there were potential problems being ignored was looked upon as a Chicken Little.

Corporate interests which have been proven not to have an interest in the environment, workers, nor even sovereign rights (and economic interests) of smaller nations. I'm thinking of the history of the likes of United Fruit Company etc.

Agreed. But Japan is not a banana republic. It's a First World nation that, though diminished, still has the ability to, largely, determine its own international political and economic policies. Lobbying for the 2020 Summer Games is not an example of this given that lingering problems in Tohoku. That's an example of pursuing the flash rather than putting the nose to the grindstone for what really matters. The Olympics were not decided upon because of gaiatsu.

If it tended back towards a traditional diet, Japan would be surprisingly self-sufficient.

Again, this simply isn't true and hasn't been so for around 100 years. Japanese agronomists put the ceiling at around 70%, even with a diminishing population. At 100+ million people, Japan simply hasn't enough arable land to provide enough non-protein staples, except rice, and the seas around Japan are badly over-fished.

Indeed, it could make a transition back towards self-sufficiency far less painfully than most other developed nations all of which base their nutritional supply on the exploitation of distant and less developed nations

This, too, simply isn't true as the agricultural sectors of the NA economies are all exporters of more than one food stuff. The U.S. imports out of season fruits and vegetables and specialty foods. We otherwise don't need anyone else's produce. This is largely true for Europe as well and most of Latin America. Australia exports almost as much food as the U.S.

You may not like the high price of Japanese fruit, but are you willing to pay for the upkeep of the countryside if you destroy Japanese agriculture?

The countryside doesn't need "upkeep," as the re-wilding of rural areas all over Japan has shown. But if you believe otherwise, whose fault is this? The Japanese have gutted their own agricultural potential with decades of excessive price supports. The LDP payback to their gerrymandered rural constituency was not policies that improved production or helped to necessarily make rural life more appealing. Rather it was mostly bridges, tunnels and rail lines to nowhere. And the farmers were content with this. Insular to an extreme, rural Japanese are suspicious of anyone not born in the area, backward looking and stubborn, which have contributed greatly to the great emptying of rural Japan. Farming is very much one of the KKK occupations. This certainly isn't unique to Japan.

https://spikejapan.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/yubari-withering-into-truth/

The final price you also reflects the cost of land and property in the cities you live in. Try getting out into the countryside and discovering the real prices.

Urban land prices continue to rise while the price of rural land in Japan continues to fall because the overwhelming majority of Japanese would rather live in the former rather than the latter. There is little that is desireable, charming or even homely about furasato. Most people the world over don't want to farm or live in small usually isolated towns. For good or ill, they would rather live in larger towns and cities that offer better employment and the culture, low and high, available there.

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I seem to be on a list the moderators keep, so I'll just say that I like farmers, I like big business,I like rice and I like apples.

I trust this will be deleted or voted down soon.

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If it tended back towards a traditional diet, Japan would be surprisingly self-sufficient. Indeed, it could make a transition back towards self-sufficiency far less painfully than most other developed nations all of which base their nutritional supply on the exploitation of distant and less developed nations.

The "traditional diet" was a domestic diet based on isolation (no foreign trade). Do you think Japan could be self-sufficient that way? That means no mechanized agricultural machinery, no motorized boats for fishery, no imported fertilizers. There is no possible way Japan could be self-sufficient in food that way.

most other developed nations all of which base their nutritional supply on the exploitation of distant and less developed nations

Like the U.S. exploits poor little underdeveloped, faraway Canada, its largest source of oil?

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As inefficient as Japanese farming practices may be, I still prefer it to the factory farming and reliance on poorly paid migrant workers that allows US prices to be so cheap.

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I still prefer it to the factory farming and reliance on poorly paid migrant workers that allows US prices to be so cheap.

Do you think US wheat is cheap because it's picked by poorly paid migrant workers?

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Do you think US wheat is cheap because it's picked by poorly paid migrant workers?

No, but wheat isn't the only thing that will be cheaper. It's also grown on industrial farms owned by corporations that have bought up and monopolized the food industry. Do you want corporations like Monsanto to extend their reach even further?

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No, Jeff, I am not new to Japan. That's was a little bit of a patronising response. I had my first encounter with the Japanese in the 1970s, and have studied food policy and sustainability issues.

But, yes, around the 1970s was where it all started to go badly wrong, including the rise of non-traditional levels of marine foods leading to the currently impoverished state of stocks and artificially created demands. Although, for the latter, you need to look back further to the post-war period, or even the US's military-economic intervention in the 19th Century.

Most of what seriously imbalances Japan's lack of self-sufficiency is not actually "needed", it is artificially created wants.

The TPP is going to make that worse as greater pressures from foreign corporations is allow to become a controlling influence.

Overseas profits ahead of global sustainability and security.

Profits having little to do with the production of food and land management -never mind regards for either human or non-human life - but more about a highly inefficient conversion of oil into money which puts Japan at a greater disadvantage as it has few such resources and, as others have pointed out, geographical disadvantages.

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MrBumJUL. 31, 2015 - 11:37AM JST As inefficient as Japanese farming practices may be, I still prefer it to the factory farming and reliance on poorly paid migrant workers that allows US prices to be so cheap.

It isn't even a matter of "factory" farming. Japan doesn't have enough contiguous farmland to do that anyway. It's simply a matter of larger fields with bigger machinery. Yearly, there are fewer farmers and and fewer people who want to farm in Japan. You can rationalize a lot of land while not using some ADM model of production. But as it is now, Japanese farming isn't even considered farming.

newyorknewyorkJUL. 31, 2015 - 10:19PM JST No, Jeff, I am not new to Japan. That's was a little bit of a patronising response. I had my first encounter with the Japanese in the 1970s, and have studied food policy and sustainability issues.

No. It was a lot patronizing because your post shows a complete lack of understanding of Japanese history and agriculture, regardless of what you claim.

Although, for the latter, you need to look back further to the post-war period, or even the US's military-economic intervention in the 19th Century.

There was no "U.S. military-economic intervention in the 19th Century" in Japan. This is a website devoted to Japanese issues. What's the point of dragging long dead history about U.S. involvement in Central America into a discussion about contemporary ag policy in Japan?

Most of what seriously imbalances Japan's lack of self-sufficiency is not actually "needed", it is artificially created wants.

No. And continuing to hammer away at this shows that, again, you know nothing about Japanese history or contemporary ag policy there.

Japan has not had anything close to food self-sufficiency going back to the early 20th Century. And as much as you wish to disparage the evolution of the Japanese diet since the war, consider this: just as with the stature of the chronically underfed British underclasses in the UK prior to WWII, the average height of Japanese men and women was 5"-7" shorter than it is today. This is reflective of both the quantity of food available and the quality and variety of the diet.

http://web-japan.org/trends95/68.html

And before you bother to point out the growing obesity in Japan, which is still less than 2% of the society, remember what has become the most popular dish in Japan - curry rice. Nothing Western in the least about that dish save for the fact that they supposedly got their first curry powders from the British during the Meiji period.

There was not some evil genius at the U.S. headquarters of KFC that decided that Japanese "Christmas" was to be take-out fried chicken (karaage by other means) and a strawberry and whipped cream cake. No one has forced anything on the Japanese just as the Japanese didn't force sushi, shabu shabu, Pocky or ramen on the rest of us.

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Japan has not had anything close to food self-sufficiency going back to the early 20th Century.

http://www.maff.go.jp/j/zyukyu/zikyu_ritu/011.html

http://www.maff.go.jp/j/zyukyu/zikyu_ritu/013.html Click on the first.

It appears Japan had a self sufficiency of 78% in 1961 which was higher than Germany and Netherlands at that time.

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You honestly believe that the more expensive eggs come from chickens not factory-farmed and fed on cheap GMOs?! You don't really know Japan.

I think I know Japan very well, thank you. The most expensive eggs are a rip-off. The free-range eggs at the local Coop are from local producers who are known by reputation if not personally. The supermarket eggs (and cheaper Coop eggs) come from a factory.

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No, but wheat isn't the only thing that will be cheaper. It's also grown on industrial farms owned by corporations that have bought up and monopolized the food industry. Do you want corporations like Monsanto to extend their reach even further?

If it means being able to feed starving people, which it does, then my answer is yes.

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Jeff, it's easy to "you're wrong" without substantiating how. I'd disagree with you.

Japan is still, basically, 100% self-sufficient in, say, rice for human consumption - which is why it's part of the argument at the TPP. Japan does not need a flood of cheap Californian rice to destroy it's agricultural communities; it's the big American producers/corporations who do, and don't give a damn about "communities". Not even American farming communities (read up on their decline).

If you look at the figures, what imbalances the calorific self-sufficiency rates is, for example, corn for animal feed, most of which don't actually need to be fed or consumed. They are unnecessary luxury products. Same too with most of the wheat imports.

Geographical topography aside, there are problems and difficulties with Japanese agriculture many of which, I would argue, go directly back to the US forced land re-distribution after WWII.

As to the "U.S. military-economic intervention", pray tell us what you think Perry was doing. "Liberating japan for the sake of the Free World" perhaps?

One thing for sure, you can directly connect the start of the industrial beef industry to American demand both for consumption and supply the 19th Century.

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One thing for sure, you can directly connect the start of the industrial beef industry to American demand both for consumption and supply the 19th Century.

First, I'm skeptical that your statement is true, since beef was identified with the U.K. before there ever was a U.S.A.

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/nov/05/english-beef-a-proud-tradition

Second, why do you figure other countries have followed in industrial beef production?

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No offence intended, but read up on the history; Townsend Harris, 1965 and Gyokusen-ji.

Jeff did not get back to me, but the US's unprovoked military assault of Japan started as a service not to the American people but to another American slaughter industry.

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well lets just hope it gets to our table

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nigelboyAUG. 01, 2015 - 12:59AM JST It appears Japan had a self sufficiency of 78% in 1961 which was higher than Germany and Netherlands at that time.

Great stats find.

Yes, 78% is close to food self-sufficiency, but something of a factoid for a time when the diet was still rice dominated, nutrient poor (though improving - thank you milk) and with a population 25% smaller than it is today. Self-sufficiency has fallen a few percentage points a year since stabilizing around 40% by 2013. As for your other examples, Germany's self-sufficiency, even after reunification, has averaged more than 90% for the last 25 years and even Holland, though half the size of Hokkaido but with a population of more than 16 million (making it more densely populated than Japan as a whole), has stayed around 70% for decades.

Look we can all marshall our own facts but this can't be disputed - Japan's agriculture is backwards and at the same time fussy (cute "tractors" the size of riding lawn mowers, putting sleeves over fruit so it's "prettier"?) and if Japanese farmers find it increasingly difficult to compete against agricultural imports, in many sectors they have no one to blame but themselves. Perhaps the most telling aspect of this is that land under cultivation in Japan has dropped dramatically since the 1980s. This land hasn't been lost to development but rather represents a decline in the portion of arable land being used.

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Great stats find.

I was simply pointing out your error in "Japan has not had anything close to food self-sufficiency going back to the early 20th Century."

Nor am I disputing the fact that the percentages declined for 'self sufficiency' no longer became important to the Japanese policy makers.

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