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Hayami SATO,Director General
Hayami SATO,Director General

 

Contributing to forward-thinking policy

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) is currently engaged in agricultural policy reforms relating to both industrial and regional policies based on the “Plan to Create Dynamism through Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries and Local Communities” of December 2013. The Ministry has sought to integrate and consolidate farmland via Public Corporation for Farmland Consolidation to core farmers through renting and subleasing; reforms in Agricultural Cooperatives and Agricultural Committees; reviewing rice policies; exporting Japanese agricultural products, and enshrining in legislation Japanese agricultural direct payment system.
Additionally, the “Policy Package for Enhancing Competitiveness of Japan’s Agriculture,” which was produced in November 2016 lays out thirteen reform items aimed at creating a more flexible management environment for farmers and assisting in the resolution of structural problems that may be too difficult for individual farmers to tackle alone. These include the reduction of farm input costs, structural reform of distribution and processing structures, reforming the raw milk distribution system, reviewing land improvement systems, introduction of a revenue insurance system, and development of an agricultural workforce.
This set of reforms has been motivated by the significant changes in social, economic and agricultural structures in Japan, and which are expected to persist into the future.
While the Japanese population has begun to decline, over the last twenty years, the country has seen a substantial increase in the number of people aged 65 and above (from 14.5% to 26.8%), a decrease in the market size for foodstuffs (from 83 trillion to 76 trillion yen), and a fall in the agricultural output from 10.4 trillion to 8.8 trillion yen. The number of people employed in agriculture has halved, while the area of cultivated land has dropped by 10%. With forecasts suggesting a drop in Japan’s population to 97 million people by 2050, the country’s food and agricultural markets are likely to experience further decline. Farming communities were once homogeneous spaces composed primarily of independent farmers with holdings of one-hectare scale. This is no longer the case. Business farmers now manage half of all farmland, and will soon manage as much as 80% of all the farmland.
Conversely, turning our attention to the rest of the world, the world’s population continues to increase. Additionally, the size of global food markets in 2050 is predicted to grow to 680 trillion yen, doubling in size since 2009 and the global markets for agricultural products are likely to grow significantly. In terms of its agricultural capacities, Japan is ranked 10th in the world for agricultural GDP, yet it is ranked 60th for agricultural exports. Accordingly, while the prospects for Japanese agriculture are somewhat grim domestically, significant market opportunities are expanding in other parts of the world. Based on the capabilities of Japanese agriculture alone, harnessing such opportunities is by no means impossible.

Agricultural, forestry, and fisheries policies must support business farmers by allowing them to make forward-thinking investments, and by helping revitalize regional areas through self-help, mutual assistance, and public assistance based on a long-term vision for rural districts. It will be necessary to make accurate predictions of future conditions both domestically and globally, to establish specific goals and appropriate policies and plans and to implement them adequately. In the past, much was said about the so-called “fickle agricultural policy.” Meanwhile, recognizing the difficulty of investment decision-making due to frequent policy changes, some managers have gone as far as identifying “policy risk” as the most important of all the major risks associated with the agricultural business. Above all, agricultural policies must be stable, predictable, and, from the perspective of those on the ground, reliable.

The Policy Research Institute, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries emerged in 2001 from the National Research Institute of Agricultural Economies, which was established in 1946, to carry out comprehensive research on agricultural, forestry, and fisheries policy. The Institute’s position within the MAFF allows it to collect primary data to inform agricultural policy planning and development, analyze current conditions, predict future developments, and to present research findings in the form of policy recommendations to shape appropriate responses to policy issues. The Institute has also been tasked with responding to the government needs in a responsive way, such as by conducting emergency studies.
To respond to government needs, researchers within the Institute in many cases are former government officials who are engaged in their areas of expertise, allowing for close-knit collaboration with departments responsible for policy planning and recommendations. The Institute hires a diverse range of individuals with an ability to carry out specialized studies. It also conducts joint-studies with external visiting researchers and other research institutes.
The goal of the Policy Research Institute is to make wholehearted research contributions toward the mission of the MAFF, thereby allowing it to make forward-thinking policy recommendations that would meet the hopes and expectations of the people.

July 2017
Hayami SATO
Director General

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Policy Research Institute,Ministry of Agriculture,Forestry and Fisheries (PRIMAFF)

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