Tokyo, Oct. 11 (Jiji Press)–Japan’s new Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Genjiro Kaneko has said the support measures that have been offered to domestic farmers, forestry workers and fishers struggling amid the novel coronavirus crisis have been insufficient.
“Taking measures to mitigate the fallout of the pandemic is currently our most urgent task. We’ll consider our responses for the agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries because producers are very exhausted,” Kaneko said in an interview with Jiji Press and other media organizations.
The government has been taking various steps to assist the industries, including the Go To Eat program of issuing meal coupons that can be used at restaurants, but these are “far from enough,” Kaneko said. “We’ll carry on while listening to various opinions and holding discussions.”
On ways to stabilize rice prices and support rice farmers, Kaneko said he is eager to expand the existing system of adjusting supply volumes by keeping harvested rice in stock for a certain period. His ministry will consider applying the system to rice produced last year, he said, adding, “It’s the top-priority issue, and we want to work on it as quickly as possible.”
On the bids by Britain, China and Taiwan to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Kaneko said that “we need to closely examine whether they are ready to fully meet the high-level standards of the free trade deal,” which includes Japan. “My ministry will work with other related ministries and agencies to produce a result that serves Japan’s national interest,” he said.
Kaneko said that the United States’ return to the TPP is “desirable” and that he will keep a close watch on the country’s trade policy. The United States withdrew from the TPP framework in 2017 under the administration of then President Donald Trump.
On a bribery scandal involving former Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Takamori Yoshikawa, Kaneko said he sincerely accepts the proposals from a third-party investigation panel set up by the ministry and will implement necessary reform measures.
Kaneko assumed the ministerial post Oct. 4, when new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida took office and his cabinet was launched.