From a global viewpoint, the market for agricultural products is a highly promising growth market. The global food market, which is now 340 trillion yen, is expected to double in 2020 to 680 trillion yen. Fortunately, Japanese food has proven popular around the world as evidenced by its designation by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage. The issue is how to connect this brand value to exports. As long as we do not fail to implement the right strategy, we can make Japanese agriculture, forestry, and fishery globally competitive export industries.
1. [Agriculture] Benchmark the Netherlands!
The world’s largest agricultural exporter is the United States. The second largest, surprisingly, is the Netherlands, a country with a small land area. The export value of Dutch-grown agricultural products is about 7.5 trillion yen, a large difference with Japan, whose export value in agriculture is 0.5 trillion yen. The reason behind the strong competitiveness of the Netherlands is that farmers there have enlarged the scale of their farming, adopted advanced technology, and become entrepreneurs. Under the government’s leadership, emphasis has been placed on agriculture in suburban areas, where agricultural products with export competitiveness, such as vegetables and flowers, are grown. Cultivation areas were concentrated by item and the industrialization of agriculture was promoted, such as through plant factories. They also created a region called “Food Valley” where the integration of different types of businesses is promoted. In Food Valley, nearly 1,500 food-related companies and research institutes are engaged in developing and spreading new breeds and technology through integration and cooperation.
If Japan’s policy is adjusted, with the Netherlands used as a benchmark, and serious efforts are focused on selection and concentration to achieve “winnable agriculture,” export and overseas production through branding, and the development of human resources and research and development, it will be possible for Japan to regain its agricultural competitiveness.
2. [Forestry] Japan’s Forests are a Valuable Resource. While Promoting Management Consolidation, Link Production Sites with Processing Sites and End Users to Make Forestry a Key Industry!
Under pressure from imported lumber, Japan’s forestry production has dropped to about 400 billion yen, one third of its peak value. But because lumber is a heavy and bulky commodity, in the forestry industry it is advantageous to produce locally and consume locally. For this reason, forestry in Japan, a country with a vast amount of forest resources, can be made into a competitive key industry if the right measures are taken. We can refer to forestry in Germany for comparison. As a result of the recent reform in Germany, the country’s lumber production capacity has been significantly increased. It now produces three times as much lumber as Japan and has created employment for 850,000 people. Based on the German example, it is important to 1) concentrate forestry management among willing business entities and remove restrictions on new entry into the forestry industry and the consolidation of forestry land in order to facilitate necessary investment; 2) conduct marketing activities that link production sites with processing sites and end users; and 3) develop technology that meets customer needs, such as the development of pollen-free Japanese cedar in order to alleviate pollen allergies.
3. [Fishery] Liberalize New Entry!
Introduce the Individual Quota System and Technological Development for the Fish Farming Industry!
1) Promote the new entry of businesses and make the fishery industry profitable by adding high value!
The production of the Japanese fishery industry has dropped to about 1.6 trillion yen, half of its peak value. This is because the Japan Fisheries Cooperatives are given priority in licensing fishing rights and therefore local cooperatives have monopolized the industry. The criteria for fishing rights should be reviewed and new entry of businesses should be liberalized.
2) Introduce the individual quota system for endangered fish species such as Japanese amberjack and bluefin tuna!
Norway, New Zealand, the United States, and other developed countries have adopted the individual quota system. Under this system, after setting the total allowable catch, an allowable catch is allocated to individual business entities for resource management purposes. In these countries, the recovery of marine resources has increased and the fishery industries successfully expanded. Japan should also adopt the individual quota system.
3) Follow the successful example of “Kindai tuna”! Enhance research and development for fish farming and business competence!
In a world first, the Aquaculture Research Institute at Kindai University in 2002 succeeded in raising bluefin tuna in total captivity. This is a truly spectacular innovation in the fishery industry and one that took 32 years to achieve. The government should place more emphasis on research and development and industrialization with an eye to decades from now.