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ECONOMY > Agriculture

Editorial: No delay should be allowed in turning agriculture into ‘aggressive’ industry

  • November 27, 2017
  • , The Japan News , 7:26 p.m.
  • English Press

Large frameworks for free trade are to be set in motion one after another. No delays should be permitted in promoting “aggressive agriculture” that can pursue opportunities in the opening up of markets for agricultural products.

 

It is necessary to review the endeavors that have been made up to now, thereby making steady progress in implementing highly efficient measures to address the matter.

 

The government has adopted an overall outline of policies related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact and others.

 

The 11 TPP nations, which do not include the United States, have reached a new broad agreement. Japan and the European Union are seeking to reach a final economic partnership agreement by the end of the year. The government’s latest action reflects these moves.

 

The government outline states that efforts will be made to “promote the cultivation of new markets and also foster a strong agriculture, forestry and fisheries industry.” This signifies an effort to ensure the domestic agricultural sector finds a means of survival in overseas markets, and to promote structural reforms in pursuit of that objective.

 

The course of action stated in the outline is understandable. The outline must not end up as an empty gesture.

 

A predecessor to the outline was laid down two years ago, in response to the broad accord reached among TPP nations, which then included the United States. The latest outline is a revision of the previous version.

 

Based on the former outline, the government carried out measures to address problems that could adversely affect domestic farmers in fiscal 2015 and 2016, with expenditures totaling ¥300 billion for each year. With the new outline laid down, the government is expected to conduct measures incurring expenditures of the same size under a fiscal 2017 supplementary budget.

 

Choose projects carefully

 

One feature of the U.S. withdrawal from the TPP pact is that the expected blow to the domestic agriculture industry will lessen. Maintaining the size of spending for such measures could easily lead to lavish government handouts. It is essential to carefully select projects that will serve to improve the makeup of the domestic agriculture industry.

 

One of the main pillars set in the new outline, in response to the Japan-EU EPA, is to adopt measures aimed at addressing issues that would affect the field of dairy products. Products include cheese, a sector in which producers in European nations hold an advantage.

 

The business environment facing domestic dairy farmers is harsh, as it takes a lot of time, effort and money to take care of livestock. It is indispensable to renovate production and distribution methods through such measures as the introduction of robotic milking equipment and direct sales to consumers. It is also hoped that constructive efforts to establish domestic brands originating in places of production will be supported through subsidies.

 

Taking measures to address the issues before the agreement goes into effect can be viewed as an attempt, however slight, to make progress in developing exports in the sector.

 

Necessary steps include producing the next generation of people who have a good feel for business management. Another measure is shifting to an operational framework that has sustainable, high profitability. To give shape to these objectives cited in the outline, the government must reconsider regulations and work to carry out bold policies.

 

The value of agricultural, forestry and fishery products exported last year reached about ¥750 billion, setting a new record for a fourth consecutive year. The government hopes to raise the figure to ¥1 trillion by the end of 2019.

 

The fact is that this situation strongly and structurally relies on only a few products, such as scallops. The increase in the total value of exports is reaching a peak.

 

Only a small number of producers have obtained international certification, and some say that there are a limited number of overseas markets to which they can expand their business. It is important for the government, agricultural cooperatives and others to cooperate and work out a well-polished export strategy. Reinforcing market research aimed at exploring overseas needs will also provide a key to success in this respect.

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