October 26, 2011
Japan approves plan to boost agriculture
The Japanese government has approved a basic policy and action plan for boosting the country's agriculture sector via the promotion of large-scale farming.
With the farm sector's reform plan, the government aims to accelerate preparations to decide whether to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting in mid-November.
While many farmers remain opposed to the TPP, the government plans to consider expanding the individual income support allowance programme for farmers and financial sources for the move with an eye of having Japan join the TPP deal.
''The government needs to dedicate all its strength to make high-level economic partnerships consistent with the revitalisation of the agriculture, forestry and fishery sectors,'' Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said at a meeting of a ministerial committee tasked with the revival of such sectors.
Under the basic policy of Japan's agriculture sector, the government aims to increase the average size of farmlands per farming household in flat areas by more than 10-fold to around 20-30 hectares over the next five years.
To realise the target, the government will offer financial support for those willing to sell or lease farmland to ambitious farmers so that it can encourage farmland accumulation.
The average size of Japan's farmland per farming household is currently about two hectares, about one 90th of that of the US and one 1,500th of that of Australia.
By promoting large-scale farming, the government aims to enable farmers to cut costs and boost their competitiveness.
The government also plans to introduce a subsidy programme to help more young people go into farming.
Other planned steps include the establishment of a public and private sector joint financial fund aimed at encouraging those in the agriculture, forestry and fishery sector to start processing and retail businesses.
Many farmers in Japan are opposed to Japan's participation in the TPP talks due to fear about an influx of cheap farm imports under deal. The TPP would in principle require member economies to eliminate all tariffs.