Disasters put Japan self-sufficiency goal in doubt

Japan’s drive to become 50% self-sufficient in food by 2020 may have been derailed by the devastation following its earthquake, Rabobank said, warning of potential long-term impacts from the crisis.
Japan’s agriculture industry could suffer “dire” consequences of the tsunami and radiation scare at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant which followed last month’s quake.
In the short-term, this could lead to “increased imports throughout 2011”, Rabobank analyst Jean-Yves Chow said, estimating losses to domestic meat and rice production at potentially more than 10%.
“Imports from trade partners such as the US, Australia and China will likely increase as Japan grapples with the magnitude of this disaster.”
‘Target in question’
Further ahead, Japanese farms, some faced with land contaminated by salt water or radiation, faced an uphill battle to replace lost capacity and expand it to meet a government target.
The country last year adopted a plan to raise the proportion of its food produced domestically, as measured in calories, to 50% by 2020 from 40% last year.
“The 2020 target could now by in question, given the additional costs of re-establishing local production capacity to decrease reliance on imports,” Mr Chow said.
“The food security strategy may now need to be revised to manage the country’s risk.”
Indeed, the potential production losses, combined with a likely dent to exports caused by food-safety concerns, will only “increase Japan’s food trade deficit”.
Temporary dip?
Mr Chow added that the immediate impact on Japan’s demand for food could be a, temporary, contraction thanks to supply disruptions and a drop in consumer confidence.
“However, demand levels for food are expected to stabilise by the end of the second quarter, and consumers could begin to return to high-end food products in the third quarter.”
In meat, the country looked set for a “further increase” in beef and pork imports, notably from Australia and the US, although these could run up against a sliding tariff regime which lifts import duties when purchases reach trigger levels.
Chinese exports were likely to make-up for lost, or contaminated, Japanese vegetable production.
‘Profound impact’
But it was the seafood sector, which provides Japanese with more than one-half their protein intake, which was feeling some of the biggest effects – from damage caused by the tsunami to fish farms as well as radiation fears for the open-sea catch.
“Overall, there is a strong shift away from domestically-produced and fresh seafood,” as customers prized foreign supplies and canned products.
“The earthquake’s impact on Japan’s import requirements is profound,” Mr Chow said, noting reports of a jump in demand for Chilean salmon and trout, Thai tuna, US scallops and Norwegian mackerel.
Meanwhile, Japanese restaurants abroad were sourcing locally seafood they have historically bought from Japan.



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