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Food self-sufficiency rate falls to 38%

Jiji Press TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate hit a 23-year low on a calorie basis in fiscal 2016, which ended in March, due mainly to falling rice consumption, the farm ministry said Wednesday.

The self-sufficiency rate fell one percentage point from the previous year to 38 percent, the second-lowest level on record after the 37 percent marked in fiscal 1993, when Japan was hit by a serious rice shortage following unstable weather.

The drop reflected significant falls in the production of wheat and other crops in Hokkaido, which suffered typhoon damage, in addition to the continuing decline in rice consumption.

The government aims to raise the self-sufficiency rate to 45 percent by fiscal 2025, but meeting the target looks difficult.

The self-sufficiency rate shows how much domestic consumption is covered by domestic production.

Demand for meat is increasing, due to the westernization of dietary habits, while consumption of rice, with high levels of self-sufficiency, is steadily declining.

Per capita annual rice consumption fell 0.2 kilograms to 54.4 kilograms, less than half the amount consumed 50 years ago. On the other hand, meat consumption rose 0.9 kilograms to 31.6 kilograms.

On a production value basis, the food self-sufficiency rate increased 2 points to 68 percent, mainly because domestic beef prices rose on a production drop. Imports of fruits and vegetables fell, while domestic production went up.

“It is necessary to enhance both the calorie- and production value-based self-sufficiency rates from the viewpoint of food security,” a ministry official said, voicing determination not to backtrack on the calorie-based target.

“We hope to achieve the 45 percent target by expanding the production of rice and wheat that suit the needs of consumers,” a senior official said.

An agricultural cooperative official, however, said, “With the number of farmers decreasing and trade liberalization progressing, the self-sufficiency rate will not rise unless the government goes all out to take necessary steps.”Speech

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