Japan News Update #11 (18-31 May, 2021)
Stay updated on the latest agricultural news in Japan, that we publish every two weeks.
by Yuki Sano
Global Warming and Sustainability Initiatives
The Japanese government has taken action against global warming in the fisheries sector, citing global warming as one of the causes of the poor catches of saury and salmon in Japan. It is the first time that the government has launched a response in the fisheries sector. The government will encourage fishers to change their business models to consider their impact on climate change.
The final presentation of the five-year Asia Monsoon Plant Factory System (PFS) Consortium project took place on Ishigaki Island. The Asian Monsoon PFS Consortium, made up of the Japanese government, academic institutions and companies including Panasonic, was formed in 2016 to address the challenge of sustainable agriculture in the tropics, even in areas prone to extreme weather events.
The Norinchukin Bank, Japan's largest agricultural lender, will invest 10 trillion yen ($91.8 billion) over the next ten years to promote its environmental, social and corporate governance goals. It is equivalent to about 1 trillion yen in ESG funding through the fiscal year ending March 2031, a 70% increase from 600 billion yen in fiscal 2020.
Effects of the pandemic and Japan's response
Today, food delivery is quick, and convenience stores are well stocked in Japan. But what appears to be consistent from the outside lacks the coordination necessary for meaningful action. Japan's systemic myopia has created a chaotic micro-focus, calling for restraint but providing no guidance. Vaccination coverage in Japan is just 2%, the lowest among the 37 developed nations in the OECD.
In Tokyo, restaurants are required to ban the serving of alcohol and close at 8 pm to stop the fourth outbreak. The government is offering subsidies based on the size of the establishment and fines for non-compliance. For restaurant operators, however, the measure represents an existential threat. Those hardest hit by the pandemic are small-scale izakaya, an integral part of Japan's social and cultural life.
COVID-19 is changing Japanese shopping habits like never before. Social distancing and the proliferation of remote working have led consumers to reprioritise their needs. Healthy lifestyle choices and the demand for home cooking have seen products such as protein powders and flours disappear from shelves, while the popularity of face masks has led to a surge in cosmetics sales. The increasing number of people are also moving from supermarkets to online shops to avoid physical contact.
Restaurants across the country hit by the new coronavirus outbreak are installing frozen vending machines to sell frozen versions of popular dishes. As demand for frozen food increases in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, many restaurants, which have been selling their products online, say they want to expand their sales channels.
Canon IT Solutions Inc. has demonstrated a "growth feature measurement technology" that uses smartphones and image information to measure the number of flowers, fruit ripeness and leaf area of strawberries. Using the smartphone's camera, the system enables growth analysis at a low initial cost and high accuracy.
Food price and impact on the Japanese farmers
Prices of agricultural products have reached their highest level in eight years. In Japan, consumers are faced with rising prices for products such as mayonnaise and cooking oil. For maise and soya, the current prices may be indicative of a long-term trend. Japan's economic growth in the January-March period was recorded at an annualised rate of -5%, which will also hit Japanese households.
The annual per capita consumption was 17.5 kg in 2019. One reason for high consumption is the low price. However, increasing farms are closing down due to a lack of successors and the rising cost of feed, and only those farms that can operate on a large scale are surviving. Nevertheless, of the agricultural businesses, only poultry farms fell into the red in 2019, showing the severity of the business situation.
Japan's Agricultural Export Strategy
Japan has developed a strategy to increase exports of agricultural, forestry and fisheries products. The government intends to provide financial assistance for the installation of facilities and equipment, including industrial refrigerators. To implement this strategy, the government plans to amend the law. The draft is part of efforts to increase the total value of these exports to five trillion yen (about $46 billion) by 2030.
For previous agricultural news updates, click here.