|Promotion and consumption of organic food in Japan|
|Written by Gunnar Rundgren|
|Monday, 15 March 2010 01:00|
Organic agriculture in Japan is mainly promoted by the farmers’ NGOs, and by the private sector.Important NGOs are the Japan Organic Agriculture Association and certification bodies, such as the Japan Organic & Natural Foods Association. The Japanese Organic Farming Promotion law, promulgated in December 2006, requires local government administrators to take measures that promote organic farming. In 2009 the support amounted to 500 million Yen(approx. 4 million euros). Out of this, around one third of the fund was spent by organic model towns. Approximately 10 million Yen (80,000 euros) per year has been spent on the promotion of the JAS organic mark. There is an organic league in the Japanese Diet (the Japanese Parliament), with 168members. The head of the league envisions that 50% of Japanese agriculture should be organic.
In a recent survey, 48.5% of the farmers asked said that they considered organic methods to be ‘Gentle to environment, co-existing with nature’ and46.9% considered that ‘it produces safe products’. Nearly a quarter (24.4%)felt that it entails increased labour costs and 29.2% thought it is risky because of pests and disease problems. Half of the surveyed farmers were interested in conversion to organic systems; they stated the following to be important factors determining their ability to convert:
• Secure sales channel that buy at a price which meets production costs:69.0%
Consumer recognition of the organic JAS mark is fairly low; around 30% of consumers recognise the mark. Sources in the sector tell TOS that there are still many question marks regarding attitudes of both producers and consumers.
Despite the organic regulation, there are many other governmental initiatives that seem to increase confusion rather than reduce it. For example, in January 2004 Abiko City in Chiba Prefecture established a local association to promote the consumption of locally-produced food. Its purpose is to encourage farmers to grow agricultural produce that is good for consumers’ health, the environment and nature, and also to encourage citizens to consume locally-grown produce. It established guidelines for farmers and at the same time asked them to keep accurate records of their produce.
Based on these records, an assessment committee certifies the produce. The level of certification is indicated by three types of labels, gold, orange or green, according to the growing process:
• Gold labels are for produce grown without chemical fertilisers or pesticides.
The certified and labelled produce is periodically sold in a public market.
This article is an advance of a report on the developments of the Japanese organic farming and market that will be published in a future TOS issue.
The Organic Standard is owned and published by Grolink.