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2013年2月13日 (水)

農業政策 攻めの戦略で自由化に備えよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 13, 2013)
Prepare for liberalization with aggressive agricultural strategy
農業政策 攻めの戦略で自由化に備えよ(2月11日付・読売社説)

Japanese agriculture obviously needs to enhance its competitiveness and reform itself to withstand further trade liberalization.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry has established a headquarters for promoting aggressive agricultural, forestry and fishery industries. The headquarters will reportedly discuss steps to expand agricultural exports, and those steps will be reflected in a growth strategy the government plans to compile.

In the headquarters' first meeting, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said, "We want to help producers to increase their added value, well satisfying consumer demand, and to tap the full extent of the latent strengths of the agricultural, forestry and fishery industries."

We have no objection to this basic policy. The question is whether the government can introduce measures to back it up.

So far, discussions of agriculture under the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe can hardly be considered aggressive.

The fiscal 2013 budget symbolizes this. The agriculture-related budget increased for the first time in 13 years, but we wonder how much it will strengthen the competitiveness of the nation's agriculture.


Throwing money at farms

Expenditures for land improvement projects, significantly cut when the Democratic Party of Japan was in power, have been restored. Taking the fiscal 2012 supplementary budget into consideration, this expenditure amounts to about 600 billion yen.

The income compensation system for individual farming households, under which subsidies are handed out uniformly, has been left untouched. Its budget remains basically the same as in the previous year, when funds were earmarked for it under a different name.

Government policy that attached too much importance to rice, which is produced mostly by part-time farmers, caused a decline in agriculture. Meanwhile, there is no sign that the graying of the farm population will stop.

The government must thoroughly promote a policy of expanding the size of farms by increasing the number of vigorous young new entrants, including those from different industries, as well as by concentrating farmland and funds into core farms with excellent management sense.

The "multifunctionality direct payment system" that the Liberal Democratic Party has begun to discuss, with the aim of introducing it in fiscal 2014, is also problematic.

Considering that farmlands have multiple functions such as protecting national land and communities, the envisaged system will provide income compensation to all farmers maintaining farmlands.

Merely further expanding subsidy-laden agricultural policies will never brighten the prospects of the nation's agriculture.


Focus on productivity, value

The proportion of full-time farmers is high among vegetable, fruit and dairy farmers. They increase the added value of their products on their own initiative and compete with products from overseas in the market.

Rather than offering subsidies as an easy solution, it is necessary to create a system to increase productivity and expand sales channels at home and abroad.

Regulatory reform is essential to nurture agriculture as a growing industry. The government's reinstated Regulatory Reform Council should also take a scalpel to the Agricultural Land Law as well as such regulations as the agricultural cooperative system--both of which hinder companies from entering agricultural businesses.

Opposition has been growing within the LDP against the country's entering into negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral free trade framework.

To prevent "aggressive agriculture" from ending up as an empty slogan, Abe should decide to enter the TPP negotiations at an early date. It is necessary to accelerate agricultural reforms and prepare for the TPP.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 11, 2013)
(2013年2月11日01時12分  読売新聞)


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