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Editorial: Structural reforms for agriculture must be promoted to cope with EPA

  • July 15, 2017
  • , The Japan News , 8:09 p.m.
  • English Press

The Yomiuri Shimbun

 

Viewing the liberalization of agricultural product markets in both Japan and Europe with a forward-looking stance, “aggressive agriculture” to enhance producers’ earning power should be promoted.

 

Following a broad accord over an economic partnership agreement between Japan and the European Union, the government has decided on a basic policy for supporting the nation’s agricultural, forestry and fishery industries. The government will try to come up with specific measures as early as this autumn.

 

The basic policy clearly states, “All possible measures will be taken to strengthen constitutions of the agricultural, forestry and fishery industries toward making them stronger.”

 

In terms of production and distribution, costs should be reduced and efficiencies should be improved. Competitiveness should be raised by enhancing the quality of products, as well as product branding. The basic policy includes such measures.

 

With the working population decreasing and an aging society progressing, the future of agriculture will be in danger if support measures end up as mere pork barreling. The direction of structural reform that eliminates waste and increases profitability is appropriate.

 

With the Japan-EU EPA, it is feared the dairy sector in the domestic agricultural industry will be impacted the most. It has been agreed to set a low-tariff import quota on “soft cheese” such as popular Camembert and to lower the tariff in phases within the quota.

 

European cheese accounts for half of the world’s production, and it is rich in variety. If prices fall due to a tariff reduction, domestic products may come under pressure.

 

It is essential to strengthen cooperation among small dairy farmers and to expand the production base by supporting those who ambitiously join the sector.

 

Enhance branding of products

 

The production of raw milk — material for dairy products such as drinking milk — is on a decreasing trend, but the production of raw milk to produce cheese is growing. Producers who make special cheese such as low-salt products and products with local flavors have emerged.

 

A revised law was enacted during the last Diet session to make it easier for raw milk producers to ship raw milk to non-designated organizations. It is expected to promote agile and flexible transactions between producers and processors.

 

Tariffs on pork and beef will be lowered to the same level as the one that had been agreed upon in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. Products familiar to Japanese consumers, such as Iberian pork from Spain, are expected to be sold at lower prices.

 

The government plans to advance the expansion of the subsidy system for producers, scheduled for when the TPP comes into effect. It is necessary to deal appropriately with drastic changes in the market environment.

 

The EPA with the EU is also an opportunity to expand exports from Japan. The tariffs that the EU imposes on Japan’s agricultural, forestry and fishery products will be eliminated almost completely. Japan and the EU also agreed to protect food products’ local brands, such as Yubari melon and Kobe beef.

 

Backed by a boom in washoku Japanese cuisine, exports of agricultural, forestry, fishery and other food products from Japan to the EU have increased by 70 percent over the past five years. It is important for producers, local governments and agricultural cooperatives to work together to come up with strategies to enhance the branding of local products.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 15, 2017)

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