Food: important as a global trading commodity – or essential to a country’s food security and sovereignty?


Beleaguered food producers in Britain – underpaid to boost supermarket profits, beset by threats to commandeer land for projects such as HS2 and hydraulic fracturing, urged to merge into factory farm units, use GM animal feed and seeds and export so as to import cheap food produced by dubious methods – will have a fellow-feeling for hitherto more cherished farmers in Japan.


Bundling harvested rice

Bundling harvested rice

Prime Minister Abe earlier pledged to protect Japan’s “beautiful” rice fields and “safe, delicious food”, but despite this, he has joined negotiations for the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership. Today an adviser to Abe’s 2006 government urges Japan to lower its tariff barriers on agricultural products  – and so force other countries to lower their tariffs on Japanese manufactured goods.

In March, after several thousand farmers had protested in Tokyo, Hitoshi Kondo, who works for Japan Agriculture (JA), the well-organised and effective national network of farm co-operatives, explained the concerns of food producers on Japan’s typically tiny farms:

“If products from the US or Australia enter the market, there’s no way we can compete. Farmers will go out of business and the environment will be ruined. We don’t want to be sacrificed for the sake of cars and electronics.”

Abe’s former adviser, Takatoshi Ito, points out that Japanese farmers are among the most protected in the world, with half of average incomes coming from subsidies and price supports compared with one-fifth in the EU and one-10th in the US.

Japan Agriculture warns that if Japan joins the TPP, “we may no longer be able to eat the safe, secure domestic food that has nourished our lives” and the agriculture ministry has said that if trade barriers are lifted Japan’s agricultural output could shrink by half.

Mr Abe is said to be about to issue a prime minister’s directive to change the law so that non-agricultural corporations are allowed to own agricultural land. At present, only small-scale farmers can do so. Japan’s general trading companies, such as Mitsubishi and Mitsui, would probably seize the opportunity to produce, distribute and export agricultural products under one roof.

Larger-scale farmers need not lose out on either jobs or income . . .

Ito adds that those who have only small plots of land with a high cost of production . . . can be compensated for their land, which could then be absorbed into much larger and more productive units with lower costs.

So there’s the plan in both countries and many others in the grip of greed: wealthy landowners, processors, exporters, transporters and speculators have everything to gain. Small and medium producers, who do the actual work, and people who want wholesome food, lose.



Posted on June 13, 2013, in Conflict of interest, Corporate political nexus, Democracy undermined, Government, Lobbying, Planning, Vested interests and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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