Tokyo, Nov. 12 (Jiji Press)–Japan’s agriculture ministry plans to tighten regulations on taking domestically developed varieties of grapes, strawberries and other farm products out of the country, in a bid to protect their brand value from unfair international competition, informed sources have said.
The ministry will submit a revision to the plant variety protection and seed act during next year’s ordinary session of the Diet, the country’s parliament, the sources said.
The move comes after it was found several years ago that seedlings of the high-quality Shine Muscat grape, registered as a new variety in Japan in 2006, were leaked to South Korea and China, impeding the expansion of exports. In Southeast Asia, Japanese-grown Shine Muscats, which sell for as high as more than 10,000 yen per bunch at home, were forced to compete with cheap South Korean- and Chinese-grown counterparts raised without permission, according to the sources.
The disadvantage is blamed on a deficiency in the plant variety protection law, which did not foresee the exportation of agricultural goods. Under current rules, varieties registered with the Japanese government are protected domestically as intellectual property, necessitating permission for cultivation. However, it is possible to carry them to some 80 foreign countries and regions such as China and South Korea.
The ministry will seek to stem such outflows by, among other measures, allowing developers of new fruit and other farm product varieties to specify cultivation areas when they apply for registration, the sources said.
Developers will also be allowed to file for an order for farmers cultivating registered produce in violation of the planned new regulations to stop the practice, according to the sources. Currently, unauthorized cultivation can result in up to 10 million yen in fines.
Additionally, farmers planning to grow registered varieties using seeds and seedlings acquired from the previous year’s harvest will be required to seek permission from developers in advance, the sources said. The ministry hopes to encourage farmers to recognize that new varieties are intellectual property, in a bid to prevent their seeds and seedlings from being given to third parties and flowing out of Japan.