Japan is facing growing resistance to its ‘cannibalised’ feed-and-seed system, which relies on the growing numbers of cattle and soybeans to feed itself.
As farmers around the country struggle to meet demand from global markets, critics have raised concerns about the environmental and economic damage caused by the feed-in-tariffs.
However, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has insisted that the government is determined to continue growing the country’s agricultural output and to feed the growing population.
“There are certain conditions that have to be met before we can begin to eat the cattle and the soybean that we are going to produce, but we are determined to do so,” Abe told reporters at the start of his third term as prime minister in December.
“Our aim is to produce the world’s most food, and we are trying to do it with the most efficient and the most sustainable production methods possible,” he said.’
Waste of energy’The new feed-trade regime, which began on 1 January, was hailed by many as a step towards sustainable farming and sustainable farming policies.
However the Japanese government has faced growing resistance from local farmers and farmers’ organisations, who have voiced concerns about how much energy and land is being wasted.
“It’s not just about the money.
It’s about the time and energy that we have to spend on farming,” said Tetsuji Nakano, a farmer in Shikoku prefecture.”
We are trying our best to ensure that we produce as much food as possible.
We have to find out how much we can save from the farming process,” he told Al Jazeera.
Farmers in Japan’s Yamagata Prefecture have already reported that their soybean fields have lost nearly one-third of their soybeans due to a shortage of feed, with farmers saying the system is being exploited.
“This system is the biggest waste of energy and resources,” said Toshikazu Sugano, director of the Sakamichi Cooperative Association, a local farmers’ association.
“The amount of land that is being used to feed cattle and cattle feed for other livestock is quite small, and it’s really inefficient,” he added.
“What is the point of using this system when we can’t feed ourselves?”‘
Austerity’S main targetThe Japanese government says it is committed to using more resources to help farmers in areas affected by climate change.
“When the Japanese people decide to adapt to the situation, we will take all possible measures,” said Yoshihide Suga, a senior agriculture ministry official.
“Austerity measures must be adopted to help those farmers whose land has been reduced in value, while maintaining the agricultural production.”
But farmers have criticised the government for what they say is a series of measures, including raising the cost of food, cutting farm subsidies and imposing a new subsidy system, to encourage more farmers to take advantage of the new feed trade regime.
“People in YamagATA are suffering the most as a result of the drought and crop failure,” said Hiroki Yamaoka, a member of the Yamagatake farmer’s association.
“People are really suffering.”
The system has been criticised for not allowing farmers to pay a direct amount of taxes to the government, which would allow farmers to earn their own income from their land.
The government says the new system is aimed at helping farmers reduce their carbon footprint, but critics say it is a waste of the countrys resources.
“To reduce CO2 emissions by 30 percent in 10 years is quite impressive, but the new regulations are only for the livestock sector,” said Hiroshi Hasegawa, director-general of the National Diet, who oversees the Japanese agriculture ministry.
“That is not enough.
What’s really important is to ensure the country is feeding the population.”