By Masamine Kawaguchi / Yomiuri Shimbun PhotographerSAPPORO — About 50 percent of the raw milk produced in Japan comes from Hokkaido. Domestic dairy producers are taking various measures in anticipation of falls in the price of imported dairy products due to the economic partnership agreement (EPA) with the European Union that is expected to take effect in 2019.
Dairy cattle were taken to be milked at 3 p.m. at Ocean Link, an agricultural cooperative corporation located on a hill in Taiki, Hokkaido, commanding Pacific Ocean views. The corporation has dramatically improved the efficiency of its operations by introducing a large-scale milking machine.
The main machine is a milking support device called the Rotary Parlor that is 19 meters in diameter. Milking takes place twice a day — but what was once seen as hard work has been automated.
The corporation was founded four years ago by three young dairy farmers who were unable to manage their family businesses. The corporation plans to build a new barn this year to increase its dairy cattle from about 700 to about 1,200, and its annual shipping volume to 10,000 tons.
Tetsuo Moritaka, 66, is a dairy farmer who puts his cows out to pasture around-the-clock in Betsukai, Hokkaido, which produces the highest amount of raw milk in the nation. Relaxed-looking cows graze on the grass of a 20-hectare pasture that is part of his 57-hectare farm. Although the amount of raw milk produced at the farm is about half of the average, Moritaka is in the black because there are no feeding costs.
“Circulatory-type dairies, which utilize local features, are friendly for both the cows and the environment,” he said.
Kyodogakusha Shintoku Nojo is an agricultural cooperative corporation in Shintoku, Hokkaido, that produces cheese.
“We can avoid a price competition with European cheeses by enhancing the Tokachi cheese brand overseas,” said Nozomu Miyajima, 66, the representative of the corporation.
The corporation aims to expand its sales channels in Hong Kong, Singapore and other regions by working with other local factories to create a new brand of cheese made using Tokachigawa hot spring water.
Nearly 200 dairy farms in Hokkaido close down every year, with the aging of dairy farmers and a labor shortage becoming critical. With the looming enforcement of the EPA, dairy farmers are making “desperate moves to survive,” according to an industry source.Speech