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ECONOMY > Agriculture

JA Group takes first steps toward reducing prices of agricultural materials

  • September 2, 2016
  • , Asahi , p. 7
  • JMH Translation

By Yo Noguchi

 

The JA Group has begun to take steps to reduce the prices of fertilizers and other agricultural materials it sells to farmers. Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Agriculture and Forestry Division chief Shinjiro Koizumi, who is compiling recommendations for agricultural reforms this autumn, has criticized the high prices of materials sold by the JA. With the aim of “surrounding the JA,” the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF) has also adopted the same position.

 

The National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations (JA Zen-Noh), which sells production materials to agricultural cooperatives nationwide, announced last month that fertilizers will now be available at 30-40% lower prices. Zen-Noh imported cheaper fertilizers from the ROK for the first time, although it has traditionally shunned such imports out of concern about quality.

 

A survey conducted in July by the Japan Association of Agricultural Corporations made up of some 1,900 member companies showed that fertilizer prices in the ROK are half of those in Japan and pesticide prices are about 30%. The JA Group’s prices are still too high. Chairman Choe Okuno of the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JA Zenchu), the leading body of the JA Group, met the chairman of the Japan Association of Agricultural Corporations for the first time on Aug. 19 to “discuss how to reduce fertilizer prices to the level in the ROK.”

 

Zen-Noh has also begun to advertise on its website the steps being taken to reduce prices for pesticides, cardboard boxes, and other materials. The JA Group is scheduled to announce further efforts to reduce the prices of production materials on Sept. 8.

 

The JA Group is now taking a more positive stance on reducing prices because the LDP project team in charge of compiling basic policies for agriculture, forestry, and fisheries will draw up reform proposals this autumn to improve farmers’ growth potential. The key issue here is a review of the prices of production materials. Regarding the JA Group — which sells 70% of fertilizers, 60% of pesticides, and 50% of agricultural machinery used by Japanese farmers — Koizumi has singled out organizational issues in Zen-Noh in particular. He has been stressing that “reforming Zen-Noh is critical.”

 

In the second FY16 supplementary budget passed on Aug. 24, MAFF has allocated funds to create a website that will offer a comprehensive comparison of production materials prices. Certain ministry officials are even proposing the creation of new laws to help reduce prices.

 

Selling production materials is a much more lucrative business for Zen-Noh than selling rice or vegetables. In reality, Zen-Noh wants to eliminate any interference at all costs. (Slightly abridged)

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