Japan gov't warns of risks to stable food supply amid Ukraine crisis

© Kyodo News

The Japanese government warned Friday the country faces risks in securing food supply due to the spread of the coronavirus and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, calling for the diversification of import partners and the lifting of the food self-sufficiency rate.

The annual white paper on food and agriculture noted that the international price of wheat hit a record high in March due to a poor harvest in the United States and other countries as well as the Ukraine crisis.

It also stated the need to "continue monitoring prices closely," as domestic food prices are also increasing due to rising crude oil prices and the yen's sharp depreciation, which has led to higher import prices for the country highly dependent on food imports.

According to the white paper for fiscal 2021, agricultural imports in 2021 totaled 7.04 trillion yen ($56 billion), with imports from the United States accounting for 1.64 trillion yen, followed by China at 711.2 billion yen.

The top six countries accounted for about 60 percent of imports, while the top two countries accounted for 80 to 90 percent of Japan's imports of grain, such as wheat and corn, and beef, according to the paper approved by the Cabinet.

The white paper noted Japan has made some progress in diversifying import partners for a number of items, but it pointed out that "Japan's import structure remains highly dependent on a few specific countries."

Meanwhile, Japan's food self-sufficiency rate on a caloric intake basis was 37 percent in fiscal 2020, matching the record low registered in fiscal 2018. The rate refers to the proportion of consumed food that is supplied by domestic producers.

"It is important to produce (food) domestically as much as possible," the white paper said.

The government said it will promote the cultivation of human resources in the farming sector, the consolidation of farmland and the introduction of agriculture that employs information technology in order to raise the food self-sufficiency rate to 45 percent by fiscal 2030.

The government also called for the analysis of risks to stable food supply and the boosting of food security by expanded domestic production, securing imports and stockpiling.