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ECONOMY > Agriculture

Attracting youth to agriculture: Interview with Minister Yuji Yamamoto

  • August 16, 2016
  • , Mainichi , p. 6
  • Translation

Q: In the agricultural industry, the labor shortage and aging of the labor force pose a serious problem.


A: Japanese agriculture is a growth industry. But if we don’t have enough younger farmers, the industry will wane. We need to increase the income level of farmers as well as promote agricultural exports so that young people become more interested in working in the agricultural sector. While sales of big grocery store chains have declined, direct retail booths run by local farmers have been increasing sales. If we put our mind to it and think harder, there are more opportunities to improve the income of farming families.


Q: Some farming families are uncomfortable with enactment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).


A: We would like to put in place a system in which farming families can avert the risk of price fluctuations in case agricultural product prices drop after the influx of imports. The tariff rate for rice will remain unchanged after the enactment of the TPP. As for fruit, the market is expanding overseas, and we would like to establish a mechanism to support further expansion of exports.


Q: How will you be involved in the reform of Japan’s agricultural cooperatives (JA)?


A: The JA organizations need to show more clearly that they are on the farmers’ side. The ministry will maintain regular contact with the JA to deepen understanding of each other’s position towards the agricultural policy reform so that there won’t be any confusion.


Q: What is your opinion of the regional co-operatives appointed by the government (that essentially monopolizes the distribution of raw milk used in the production of butter and cheeses)?


A: (In order to adjust and balance supply and demand), we spend 3.06 billion yen in subsidies on the system. We want to reform the system so that subsidies help improve the income of dairy farmers. We intend to finalize the reform plan by the fall after consulting with the government’s regulatory reform council and hearing opinions from people in related fields.


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