By Tetsuji Yamamura
Asahi found from informed sources that 45 prefectures will announce “guidelines (reference figures)” for rice production volumes and crop acreages after the policy known as “gentan” is abolished this year. Under this policy the government has been providing rice production caps to farmers. Gentan is being phased out to increase the autonomy of production districts. However, a certain limit will continue to exist across the nation.
The guidelines are set by the agricultural revitalization councils in each prefecture. When Asahi interviewed municipal and Japan Agriculture (JA) members in the councils, it learned that 13 prefectures including Yamagata, Toyama, and Miyazaki will provide ‘production volume targets’ for each rice producer, which is essentially an extension of the gentan policy.
Although the remaining 27 prefectures plan to issue guidelines for each district or municipal level, they will leave to each region the decision of whether to allocate targets by farmer. Hokkaido and Kagoshima, however, will indicate guidelines for each producer as a basic rule. Gunma and Oita will also request that each rice producer be notified of its target.
Akita, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Okayama, and Tokushima will merely share the prefecture-wide target with their districts, with explanations of calculation methods and the rational for the targets. Most prefectures will calculate their figures by the end of the year based on the nationwide demand forecast issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. Tokyo and Osaka will not issue any guidelines as they produce very little rice.
There has been criticism over the negative effects of the gentan policy, such as preventing motivated farmers from maximizing their potential, as the policy uniformly suppresses production volume nationwide. Nevertheless, it was determined to issue the guidelines due to the strong desire expressed by municipalities and JAs, saying “[We] cannot provide guidance to farmers without targets.”
Some agricultural revitalization councils are working to reflect the will of the producers and distributors in the guidelines instead of uniformly setting targets. Some councils use the guidelines to secure the necessary yield in low-producing districts. The subsidies farmers received for participating in the gentan policy will be abolished next year. It is difficult to predict how the new guidelines will affect actual production volumes, as the prefectures differ in responses.