Turning schoolyards and golf courses into sweet potato fields… The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is “serious” about the issue of food self-sufficiency and is considering a “potato-centered” diet. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Turning schoolyards and golf courses into sweet potato fields… The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is “serious” about the issue of food self-sufficiency and is considering a “potato-centered” diet.

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Defense spending is “10 trillion yen” annually, the solar power purchase program “4.2 trillion yen”, while the agricultural budget is “just over 2 trillion yen”…

Food prices keep going up. One wonders how high the prices will go, but one is told that it is still a good thing if one can buy it if one has to pay for it.

Even if we wanted to import, our “buying power” has decreased due to the weak yen and other factors, and we are losing out to China. The world situation is unstable, and there is no guarantee that something like the invasion of Ukraine will not happen again. When we can no longer import food as we have in the past, the Japanese may be the first in the world to go hungry.

Professor Nobuhiro Suzuki of the Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Tokyo warns.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) estimates that if food imports are not available, “eating a sweet potato at every meal will provide the necessary calories for one day…

The self-sufficiency rate of food in Japan is said to be about 38%,

Most fertilizers and vegetable seeds are imported from overseas. If we could no longer import seeds, we would be down to about 10% of what we can produce domestically. Without chemical fertilizers, crop yields would be cut in half.

The self-sufficiency rate for vegetables is 80%, but 90% of seeds are imported. If that were to stop, the true self-sufficiency rate would be only about 8%.

The corn used to feed meat is also 100% imported, so if that were to stop, production would be reduced to about 10%.

Fish, however, seem to be in good hands,

Most of the fishmeal used in aquaculture is also imported, so fish will be greatly affected.

Chicken chicks are also almost 100% dependent on imports.

Now that supplies are becoming unstable worldwide, we must ensure that both feed and fertilizer are produced within our own country by recycling resources, such as by using domestic resources.

We are in a situation where we need to put more effort into agriculture and increase the number of people engaged in farming, yet both farmers and dairy farmers are now under economic strain due to the rising cost of fuel. According to Professor Suzuki, 98% of dairy farmers and 93% of rice farmers are in the red.

If energy, defense, and food are the three pillars of security, then it is not surprising that more money should be spent on food. We spend 10 trillion yen on defense every year, and further increases are being considered. The solar power purchase program alone spends 4.2 trillion yen. In contrast, the agricultural budget is just over 2 trillion yen. If we don’t make up the current deficit urgently, farmers will disappear.”

Chicks and feed are almost 100% dependent on imports… (PHOTO: AFRO)

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries is “seriously” considering the contents of a diet centered on sweet potatoes…

It is not that the government has not thought about what will happen when imports stop.

Menu example based on the amount of food that can be supplied by domestic agricultural production when the food self-sufficiency target for FY 2015 is achieved, based on the area of farmland (4.5 million hectares) and the level of agricultural technology, etc., and when thermal efficiency is maximized (prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries).

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) is telling us to get calories from sweet potatoes. But how do you grow these sweet potatoes?

They are thinking of “ripping out the turf from school yards and golf courses and turning them into sweet potato fields, or filling in roads and turning them into fields.”

So which golf courses are they going to turn into sweet potato fields, or if push comes to shove, are they arranging to have them turned into sweet potato fields?

I don’t think we have any concrete plans. They have chosen sweet potatoes because they are the easiest for humans to eat and to grow, but if someone who has never grown sweet potatoes before plants them, I am not sure if they will grow at all. There is also the problem of who will be responsible for growing them. Including this, I don’t think there is any particular plan in place.

Why are they even importing “seeds”?

Why are they importing even the seeds?

For example, there are many different types of eggplants. In Japan, fields are small, so if a different type of eggplant is grown in a neighboring field, there is a high possibility of crossbreeding with the seed from the neighboring field. In order to sell them in large quantities, they need to be grown overseas on large farmlands to be produced efficiently.”

That does not mean it can never be done. In fact, 100% of rice is produced domestically.

The Seeds and Seedlings Law was partially amended in ’20, and registered varieties of seeds are not allowed to be taken without permission. However, traditional Japanese native seeds and fixed seeds can be harvested. If we don’t keep these things in circulation, we will be in trouble when it becomes impossible to import seeds.

Kamakura vegetables and Kyoto vegetables are among the native species. These native species can be found anywhere in Japan.

It takes a lot of time and effort to collect the seeds,” he said. That’s why the number of growers is decreasing, but it is important to protect them.

Traditional Japanese native and fixed seeds that can be harvested. If we don’t keep these things in circulation, we will be in trouble when we can no longer import seeds,” says Suzuki.

Growth Hormones” Banned in EU, China, and Russia; Japan, Where Inspections Are “Zaru”…

Apart from the risk of not being able to import products due to climate and political conditions, there are also problems with imports. Some imports use growth hormones and fungicide.

American pig producers feed their pigs a feed additive called ractopamine to speed up growth and increase lean meat. Ractopamine is banned in the EU, China, and Russia for domestic use and import because of its toxic effects on the human body.

The use of ractopamine has not been approved in Japan either, but inspections of imported meat are mostly zero-level.

The same is true for beef; the EU has banned the importation of beef that has been treated with growth hormone, but the beef that has been treated is exported to Japan, where meat imports are inspected by monkeys.

This is not the time to be happy that cheap beef is now coming into Japan.

Wheat, potatoes, and fruits are also not safe. Exported products are treated with post-harvest fungicide, a pesticide banned in Japan, to prevent mold growth during the long journey by ship.

Imported products carry that risk.

Imported meat inspections are almost entirely monkey business! (Photo: Image: Afro)

What should we do?

We should just not eat them. Bread, for example, should be made from domestic wheat, and processed foods should be purchased after checking the label on the product to see if it is made from domestic agricultural products, not just “domestically produced. If possible, buy from farmers who are working hard near where you live, or from a reliable co-op that provides safe products, or from other places where you can be sure of safety and security. The government cannot stop such consumer behavior. It is important to take action so that we can eat safe food.

Nobuhiro Suzuki Professor, Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo. Born in 1958, he has been working for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries for 15 years. Born in 1958, he worked for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries for 15 years before entering academia. After serving as an associate professor at the Faculty of Agriculture, Kyushu University, and a professor at the Graduate School of Agricultural Sciences, Kyushu University, he was appointed to his current position in September 2006. From 1998 to the summer of 2010, he was a visiting assistant professor and professor at Cornell University. His major books include “Nogyo nihonai: Nou seisaku no hatsuwa ga mimamete kokka suru no kiki” (Agricultural Extinction: Agricultural Policy Failure Leads to National Crisis) (Heibonsha Shinsho, 2009), “Shoku no Senso: Amerika no Tsumei ni Nakaeru Nihon” (Food Wars: Japan Falling into the Trap of the United States) (Bunshun Shinsho, 2001), and “Sekai no Soraeru wa Nihon” (The First to Starve in the World: Japan) (Kodansha + Alpha Shinsho).

  • Interview and text by Izumi Nakagawa

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