Despite the imposition of a wide range of sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, the government indicated last week that it planned not to touch imported marine products, which not only reflects political and economic concerns, but also deeper concerns about the impact of import restrictions on Japan’s overall food security.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the value of imports of these products from Russia last year was 38 billion yen for crab, 20 billion yen for salmon and trout, 13.2 billion yen for cod roe and 9.8 billion yen for sea urchin.

Russian cod roe and sea urchin accounted for a high percentage of domestic consumption, the former being used for the common dish mentaiko. If imports were banned, not only food processors, but also the entire restaurant industry would be negatively affected.

On March 11, the Group of Seven agriculture ministers warned that the Russian-led war was leading to soaring grain prices around the world, particularly wheat and maize, and that a further rise in prices food prices and the volatility of international commodity markets could threaten global food security. In Japan, which relies heavily on imported food, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to calls on the country to strengthen its national food safety measures.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party adopted a resolution on March 10 calling on the government to strengthen its food security policy. He warned that the risk of dependence on foreign countries was increasing amid the pandemic and the situation in Ukraine. The resolution calls for the strengthening of national production bases and for the government to carry out a broad review of current food security legislation, including the Basic Law on Food, Agriculture and Rural Areas established in 1999.

Amid soaring oil and grain prices in the market, the resolution also seeks to ensure that the government takes steps to ensure that Japan does not lose out to other countries in its efforts to buy in abroad the raw materials necessary for the agricultural and food industries. Due to concerns over soaring feed prices, the government will strive to increase and expand domestic feed production.

For the fiscal year beginning in April 2020, Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate stood at 37% on a calorie basis, matching the record high recorded in fiscal year 2018. The government’s goal is to increase this rate to 45% by 2030 under the 1999 law.

But Japan’s domestic agricultural production base continues to weaken due to aging, shrinking labor force and shrinking cultivated farmland, which means the rate of food self-sufficiency has remained stagnant.

The LDP resolution noted that the law states that a stable supply of food must be ensured through an appropriate combination of imports and storage while adhering to the principle of increasing domestic agricultural production.

Salmon imported from Russia on sale in Kushiro, Hokkaido on March 2 | KYODO

For Japan’s 1.5 trillion yen imported seafood market in calendar year 2020, 7.1% was imported from Russia, making it the fifth largest importer after China (18%) , Chile (10.3%), the United States (8%) and Vietnam. (7.5%). Russian salmon accounted for 9.4% of Japan’s 200 billion yen market for imported salmon, far behind Chile (60.5%) and Norway (22.3%).

While the figures above are for all of Japan and the self-sufficiency rate was 55% for seafood on a calorie basis in fiscal 2020, Hokkaido is particularly dependent on fruit imports. Russian seagoing vessels from the adjacent North Pacific Ocean, including nearby surroundings. islands occupied by Russia and claimed by Japan.

Last year, the prefecture received 97.4% of its sea urchins, 84.1% of its crab, 51.1% of its salmon and 38.8% of its squid from Russia, according to customs data, creating strong local concerns about the effect of Japan’s sanctions on Russia. on Ukraine, which include a ban on seafood exports.

Meanwhile, the self-sufficiency rate was 15% for wheat on a calorie basis. For the wheat import market from Japan, worth 162.8 billion yen, America was the main supplier, with a share of 46.9%. Canada (36.5%) and Australia (16.2%) were the other suppliers. Thus, while Russia and Ukraine account for about 29% of world wheat exports, Japan receives virtually none from these two countries.

The self-sufficiency rate for vegetables is 76%, while the rate for sugar varieties is 36%. The rate was 16% for livestock products and 21% for soy on a calorie basis.

Climate risk

There are other imminent threats to Japan’s food security besides supply disruptions and price hikes due to the Russian invasion. The big risk is climate change and its effects on the supply of agricultural and seafood products in the years to come, especially in other Asian countries from which Japan imports agricultural products, effective climate adaptation strategies in Japan and these countries being a key long-term challenge. for the nation.

A report released last month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted that Asia as a whole accounts for 67% of global agricultural production and that climate-related risks to agriculture and security food in the region will gradually increase as warming reaches 1.5 degrees Celsius and higher.

But the impact will be uneven. One part of an Asian country or sub-region may experience greater food security, while other parts of the same country or other sub-regions will experience greater insecurity.

Among the impacts on Japan’s food production, the IPCC report predicts that current rice-growing regions across the country will be divided into suitable and unsuitable zones as temperatures rise, and this will mean a possible change in the areas where rice is currently grown, resulting in yield changes for different areas. Japan’s self-sufficiency rate was 98% for rice on a calorie basis in fiscal year 2020.

The IPCC report also predicted a shift in the distribution of areas suitable for subtropical citrus by the middle of the 21st century, as rising temperatures will change where the fruits can thrive.

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