Japan. Grain and Feed Annual. Mar 2014 Березень 31, 2014
Japan’s feed industry relies almost entirely on imported grains. Corn is predominant in feed by far, traditionally making up 50 percent of feed ingredients. The sharp rise in U.S. corn prices since last season has led Japan’s feed industry to shift the supply source to South American and East European countries, while decreasing the ratio of corn used in feed. As the new 2014 crop starts to arrive in Japan at lower prices, the U.S. import market share is expected to recover significantly, but not to the pre-2012 level of 90 percent. Despite continued volatility in imported grain prices, Japan’s feed production remains highly stable at around 24 million metric tons, with government subsidies having absorbed some of the cost increase.
OVERALL MARKET SITUATION
With very little commercial production of feed grains domestically, Japan’s feed industry relies almost entirely on imported grains. Corn ordinarily makes up about half of all feed ingredients. For decades, the United States has provided over 90 percent of import supplies of corn to Japan. The sharp rise in U.S. corn prices since the summer of 2012 led Japan to shift the supply source to South American and East European countries. The import share of U.S. corn during the Marketing Year (MY) 2012/13 dropped to below 50 percent.
Feed ingredient utilization ratio. The ratio of corn has now declined to the lower 40 percent range. Instead, utilization of sorghum has further advanced, while use of wheat continues to be significant.
Japan has a feed price stabilization program, whereby the combination of a subsidy by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and an industry fund help absorb sudden surges in the compound feed price. Following the significant grain price hike in the 2nd quarter of 2012, the subsidy was re-activated and absorbed a large portion of the cost increase. For the current quarter (January-March 2014), the subsidy was discontinued due to a slight drop in the market price of compound feed. As a result, the farmer’s purchase price increased to the highest level on record. However, Japan’s feed production continues to be highly stable, with an annual output of approximately 24 million metric tons.
Production Up 1.0 Percent
The bullish 2012 wholesale price, as shown in the following price section, led to increased planting in 2013. Yield was also up 2 percent above average due to favorable weather conditions throughout the growing season in most areas of the nation. As a result, overall rice production in 2013 increased 1.0 percent over the previous year. With an abundant new harvest, the early wholesale price plummeted. Weakened price, if it continues, is expected to discourage planting in 2014. Given the average yield of the past five years, total production volume in 2014 is forecast downward at 8,420,000 metric tons (MT), which converts to 7,662,000 MT on a milled basis.
Overall Consumption Remains Sluggish and Chronic Surplus Continues
Per capita consumption of rice in Japan has been steadily declining since its peak in 1962, and finally went below the 60 KG mark in 2008. MAFF forecasts the aggregate table rice demand for 2013/14 to be 7.9 million metric tons (MMT). The 2013 harvest of 8.6 MMT is expected to add approximately 0.7 MMT to stocks. In order to reduce the surplus rice supply, MAFF has been pushing rice into the feed sector by selling imported rice out of Minimum Access rice stocks at a discount and by providing subsidies to feed rice producers. As a result, the utilization ratio of rice in compound and mixed feed increased from 0.1 percent (or 13,464 MT) in 2003 to 2.7 percent (or 652,573 MT) in 2011. In 2012, however, an increase in the price of table rice discouraged farmers from diverting sales to the feed sector. As the strong price of table rice continued, utilization of rice in feed has stayed around 1.8 percent, equivalent to 430,000 MT annually. For table rice, the four-decade downward trend in consumption is not expected to be reversed, given the demographic situation, Japan’s population started declining in 2006, earlier than previously forecast. Japan’s population is aging rapidly, and it is forecast that one out of four Japanese will be older than 65 by 2015. In addition, bread consumption has taken a dietary share from rice as a main source of carbohydrates, due to ease of meal preparation using bread, supported by Japanese tastes increasingly shifting to more Western diets.
As a result of the reduction in rice consumption, as well as a decline in retail price over the years, household expenditures on rice have been cut by more than half during the last two decades.
Wholesale Price of 2013 Crop Starts 10 Percent below 2012 Level
Despite the over-supply situation in 2013 with an above-average 2012 harvest, farmers’ cooperatives exercised supply control until the spring of 2013. As soon as the restraint was lifted, the wholesale price started falling. With another abundant harvest in 2013 and continuing high stock levels, the starting price of the 2013 crop dropped more than 10 percent compared to the same period the previous year.
Japan Expected to Meet Import Commitment in JFY2013
As a result of the Government of Japan’s (GOJ) tariffication of rice in JFY2000, the Minimum Access commitment was reduced from the non-tariffied rate of 8.0 percent to 7.2 percent of total domestic consumption, from 758,000 MT to 682,000 MT (milled basis).
As of February 27, 2012, five Simultaneous Buy and Sell (SBS) tenders and eleven Ordinary Minimum Access (OMA) tenders had been held for the current Japan Fiscal Year 2013 (April 2013-March 2014). Every year, Japan is expected to fulfill its WTO commitment of importing 682,000 MT (milled rice basis).
While SBS rice goes to retailers and foodservice users and is consumed as table rice, OMA rice does not enter the table rice market. Including the OMA rice taken out for the government reserve, Post estimates that, on an annual basis, between 200,000 and 300,000 metric tons are turned into rice flour and used by food processors, mainly in the confectionery sector; between 300,000 and 400,000 tons are consumed by feed millers; and between 100,000 and 200,000 tons are re-exported under food aid programs.
MAFF holds emergency stocks of rice, the level of which is targeted at 1 million MT. However, this does not include stocks of the OMA rice. The 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake triggered an effort to renew government stocks of rice, leading to an increase in stock levels in 2012. MAFF has been selling OMA rice aggressively into the feed sector for the last several years, running down the stock level from its 2006 peak. Post estimates 300,000 to 400,000 metric tons of OMA rice are now going into the feed sector. In addition to the government stocks, Post estimates over 1 million metric tons of rice stocks are commercially held.
Production in 2013 Down 6 Percent
Despite a slight increase in the total planted area, wheat production in 2013 declined 6 percent over 2012. Although weather conditions were generally favorable in the major growing region of Hokkaido, which produces 66 percent of Japan’s wheat supplies, yield declined from 2012’s record level; on the other hand, yield in other areas increased by 4 percent. The nationwide yield in 2013 was still higher than average. Since wheat is an alternative crop to rice in some areas, Post forecasts planted areas for wheat will increase slightly in 2014 as planted areas for rice are expected to shrink. Despite this increase in area, given an average yield of the past five years (excluding the abnormally low yield in 2010), production volume is forecast to decline by 8 percent.
Food Wheat Consumption Stays Flat While Feed Use Expands
Consumption levels of food wheat have been flat in the last three decades at around 32 kilograms per capita. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) estimates the total food wheat demand to be 5.71 million metric tons for the 2013 Japan fiscal year (April 2013-March 2014). Combined with the wheat equivalent of wheat product imports of 200,000 to 300,000 metric tons, Japan’s aggregate food wheat demand is estimated to be 5.9 to 6.0 million metric tons. As corn prices have soared, wheat utilization in feed has been expanding dramatically since 2012 and surpassed the 900,000 MT mark in MY2012/13. In MY2013/14 and MY 2014/15, as the demand for corn is expected to recover, wheat consumption in the feed sector is forecast to decline but still remain greater than the MY2011/12 level.
GE Wheat Incident
On May 29, 2013, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that test results of plant samples from an Oregon farm indicated the presence of genetically engineered (GE) glyphosate-resistant wheat volunteers. Although GE wheat is not approved for sale or commercial production in the United States, this variety is considered as safe as non-GE wheat currently on the market as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) completed a voluntary consultation on the safety of food and feed derived from this GE glyphosate-resistant wheat variety in 2004 with no further questions concerning the safety of grain and forage derived from this wheat.
Although MAFF immediately suspended import tenders for Western White (WW) for food use and soft wheat from the Western region for feed use, as a result of close coordination between the Government of Japan, USDA and industry, a new testing protocol was established, and on August 1, 2013, MAFF resumed WW import tenders. MAFF also resumed import tenders for soft white wheat for feed use on August 7. Since the successful resumption of import tenders for WW wheat, import tenders have been held regularly without disruption. On December 4, MAFF announced that their regulatory testing of U.S. wheat, including 170,000 metric tons of stocks MAFF had stopped releasing after the outbreak of the incident, showed no positive detection of GE wheat MON71800.
Wheat Imports by MAFF as a State Trading Enterprise
MAFF operates as a State Trading Enterprise (STE) and conducts three types of imports: 1) direct purchase of food wheat; 2) SBS imports of food wheat; and 3) SBS imports of feed wheat.
1) Direct Purchase of Food Wheat
MAFF purchases different types of wheat, mainly from the United States, Canada and Australia, to best meet the needs of Japanese users.
MAFF controls both producer and resale prices of domestic wheat, and the resale price of imported wheat. MAFF buys imported wheat at international prices and sells it to domestic flour millers at a markup. The markup ratio fluctuated between 1.3 and 1.7 over the last two years due to volatile international wheat prices. MAFF reportedly intends to maintain this rate around 2 to 1, which means MAFF sells imported wheat at twice the purchase price.
2) SBS Imports of Food Wheat
MAFF has conducted a Simultaneous-Buy-Sell (SBS) system for food quality wheat and barley since April 2007. The idea behind the SBS system is to allow for greater flexibility of imports and transparency in a portion of food quality wheat. However, MAFF still remains a “middle man” in the transaction.
MAFF holds SBS tenders under the following two categories.
Category I: Prime Hard and Durum
Category II: Any brand except:
U.S. Western White (WW)
U.S. Hard Red Winter (HRW)
U.S. Dark Northern Spring (DNS)
Australia Standard White (ASW)
Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS)
During the most recent complete Japanese fiscal year (JFY2012), a total of nearly 300,000 MT of wheat (Category I and II combined) was imported down 50,000 MT from the previous year. According to trade sources, the decline was primarily due to a smaller supply of Prime Hard from Australia. Because of relatively expensive freight rates for containers, wheat imported by containers (Category II) was small in volume. To date this fiscal year, MAFF has held eleven tenders, and approximately 200,000 MT has been imported. By the end of the fiscal year (March 2014), imports of 250,000 MT are expected. As Australian Prime Hard supplies continue to be unstable, users are more inclined to obtain U.S. semi-hard wheat through state trading than sourcing Australian Prime Hard through the SBS tenders. On the other hand, because Durum can only be imported through the SBS tenders, Canadian Durum imports have been stable.
3) SBS Imports of Feed Wheat
MAFF also imports wheat and barley for feed use under the SBS system. For JFY 2013, MAFF has allocated 1,060,000 MT for the SBS feed wheat, and so far conducted forty-two SBS tenders, through which 661,910 MT of imported wheat was contracted. Imports of feed wheat have dramatically increased in the last several years as high corn prices led feed mills to seek substitutes.
MAFF allows flour millers to import wheat outside of MAFF’s control as long as they export an equivalent amount of wheat flour. Flour millers that successfully find export markets can import this so-called "free wheat" at global market prices.
Feed Wheat Imports Continue to Elevate Total Wheat Imports in 2013
Total imports of wheat, including wheat products, in MY2012/13 increased by 3.8 percent to 6.60 million MT. The increase is primarily owing to another sharp increase in feed wheat imports. As corn prices soared, wheat utilization has dramatically increased since 2012. In MY2013/14, as corn imports start to normalize, feed wheat imports are expected to shrink. Imports of food wheat should increase slightly as domestic wheat production declines, but not enough to offset the expected drop in feed wheat imports. Given the flat aggregate demand for flour-based food products, total (feed and food) wheat imports in MY2013/14 are expected to decline slightly. If corn imports continue to stabilize, feed wheat imports are expected to continue to decrease in MY2014/15, which will bring the total wheat imports down further.
In the past, Japan held emergency stocks of wheat at a level equivalent to 2.6 months’ worth of the amount of food wheat imported annually. However, due to the shortened time necessary to obtain alternative supplies in case of an emergency, the stocks have been reduced to 2.3 months’ worth. For JFY2013 the government set the targeted amount of stocks at 940,000 metric tons.
Corn production is negligible in Japan.
Japan’s Livestock Population on Gradual Decline
Of the total demand for corn in Japan, roughly 70 percent comes from the feed sector, and 30 percent comes from the food sector, mainly from starch manufacturers. Despite the decline in utilization over recent years, corn continues to be the largest ingredient in compound and mixed feed. Of the total demand for feed corn, about 44 percent is for the poultry sector. The stagnant trend in the livestock population appears irreversible, and feed demand is expected to decline slowly but steadily in years to come.
Prolonged Price Volatility Leads to Further Lowering of Corn Utilization
The feed ingredient ratio is adjusted from year to year, depending on the price of various grains. The corn utilization ratio of about 50 percent, pre-2008 price surge, was lowered to 48 percent in 2009, then to 47 percent in 2010, and with the recent price re-surge, the Japanese feed industry has once again adjusted the ratio down to the 42 percent range in 2013. Given the total feed production in Japan is approximately 24 million MT, a decline of 8 percent in utilization translates to a 1.92 million MT reduction in corn demand.
The driving force in the food corn demand comes from the beverage sector, particularly for high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) used in low alcoholic drinks like happoshu (light beer) and other alcoholic beverages, in addition to a continued strong demand for soft drinks. However, due to general public restraint on holding receptions and parties in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake, sources indicate that shipments of beer and related beverages declined 3.7 percent in 2011. Although stagnant consumption of alcohol and soft drinks continued in 2012, demand for food corn returned to previous levels in 2013 as beverage consumption recovered.
As shown in the following section, as of March 2014, the price for the 2014 new crop of U.S. corn is beginning to decline. As a result, feed millers are expected to raise the utilization ratio of corn to 45 percent in MY2013/14, the level similar to that in 2011. This translates to approximately 11 million MT. If the price of corn continues to stabilize in MY2014/15, a further increase in feed demand is expected, but not to the pre-price surge level of 12 million MT, as importers are intending to maintain a diversification of supply sources to avoid overdependence on the United States.
Demand for food corn is forecast steady for MY2013/14 and MY2014/15 as beverage consumption is expected to be robust.
The CIF price of U.S. corn during MY2013 increased 7 percent over MY2012. The price for the 2014 new crop that is currently being marketed is beginning to decline.
The higher price of corn and the consequent reduction in corn utilization in feed led to a significant decline in feed corn imports in MY2012/13. Ordinarily, Japan imports over 90 percent of its corn supply from the United States. However, since September 2012, imports from Brazil have been rising sharply, surpassing imports from the United States in December of that year. Imports from Argentina, South Africa and the Ukraine have also notably increased.
As the price of imported corn is beginning to decline, the utilization of corn in feed is expected to recover as explained in the previous section. Therefore, imports of feed corn are forecast to increase by the expected amount of recovery in the feed utilization; i.e., by approximately 1 million MT in MY2013/14. In addition, MY2013/14 beverage demand is expected to remain robust, keeping the level of imports at around 4.5 million MT. The overall corn imports in MY2013/14 are forecast at 15.5 million MT, up 1 million MT from MY2012/13. Industry sources expect that, if U.S. corn prices continue to remain at lower levels, the U.S. market share will recover significantly as the new 2014 crop starts to arrive in Japan. However, U.S. import market share is not expected to recover to the pre-2012 level of 90 percent, even if the price stays attractive, as Japanese users feel it is important to maintain a diversification of suppliers now that they have learned how to source and use corn from various countries.
As for MY2014/15, if import corn prices stabilize, a further recovery in feed corn imports are expected, possibly to the 11.5 million MT level, leading to overall imports of 16 million MT, with food corn imports remaining steady at 4.5 million MT.
Japan holds emergency stocks of essential feed grains, i.e. corn, sorghum, and rice. The stock level, including commercially held stocks, is set at approximately 950,000 MT in total. The breakdown is 600,000 MT of corn and sorghum combined (roughly 90 percent corn) and 350,000 MT of rice (all out of OMA rice stocks).
DDGS Imports Leap to a Record High Level
One of the positive side-effects of the ethanol boom in the United States is the increasing availability of a high value byproduct, Distiller’s Dried Grains with Solubles (DDGS). Japan’s imports of DDGS from the United Sates have been increasing significantly and surged further in MY2011/12 and MY2012/13 as corn prices jumped. The majority of these DDGS are currently used in dairy cattle feed. Japan’s feed industry has accepted DDGS as an indispensable ingredient. Although the amount of its utilization is still contingent upon prices of other feed grains, its demand continues to remain strong in MY2013/14, with imports keeping up with the pace of the previous year.
Like corn, production of sorghum is negligible in Japan.
As sorghum is a substitute for corn, its utilization ratio in the production of compound and mixed feeds fluctuates. Depending on its relative price to corn and other ingredients, the ratio is typically between 4 and 7 percent, or between 1.1 and 1.7 MMT in volume. As described in the WHEAT section, use of wheat in feed expanded significantly in recent years, cutting into the share of corn and sorghum in feed to a notable extent. As the price competitiveness relative to corn improved, the utilization ratio of sorghum in feed increased to nearly 8 percent in MY2012/13. This translates to an increase in volume by roughly 350,000 MT. In MY2013/14, as corn prices drop, demand for sorghum is expected to decline by 300,000 MT. If corn prices continue to stabilize, a further decline is forecast for MY2014/15.
Just as with corn, CIF prices for sorghum have been steadily rising. The U.S. price, in particular, increased more significantly than other suppliers since 2011. The average import prices have come down to 272-280 U.S. dollars per MT in recent months, and the price competitiveness of U.S. sorghum has been improving.
Since sorghum is mainly a substitute crop, potential growth in Japan’s sorghum imports largely depends on its price relative to corn and other feed ingredients. Imports are classified as being either for feed or food. However, despite this technicality, practically all of the sorghum imported under the food HS code eventually ends up in the feed sector. Therefore, the increase in the total import volume is almost entirely attributed to the increase in the volume of sorghum used in feed in MY2012/13. As corn prices stabilize and the price competitiveness of corn against sorghum is expected to improve, sorghum imports in MY2013/14 are expected to decline. If corn prices stabilize and remain more attractive in MY2014/15, sorghum imports are forecast to decline further.
Following the GOJ’s 2003 policy of reducing overall feed grain stocks, sorghum stocks have shrunk significantly. Post estimates the current government and commercial stocks will remain constant at less than 80,000 MT.
Aggregate barley production in Japan in 2013 reached 179,600 MT, up 4.2 percent from 2012. For two-row barley, the planted area shrank slightly but the production volume stayed at the previous year’s level due to improved yield, although yield was still below average due to rain during planting in some of the major growing areas. Six-row barley also saw a slight decline in planted area. However, due to an above-average yield, supported by favorable weather conditions, production volume increased 8.6 percent. Naked barley production increased nearly 20 percent over the previous year as a result of a slight increase in planted area coupled with a yield that was slightly higher than average due to favorable weather conditions. For 2014, Post forecasts that crop areas will remain at the 2013 level. With the average yield of the past five years, production volume is expected to decrease by 4 percent over 2013.
Aggregate consumption of barley (feed and food) is estimated to be 1.5 million MT. Roughly 80 percent of barley is consumed in the feed sector, especially compound and mixed feed for the cattle industry (beef and dairy). It is particularly important in feeding beef cattle, because it contributes to the production of high quality beef with the white marbling that Japanese consumers favor. The largest non-feed uses are for the production of shochu, a traditional distilled liquor, and beer. Other uses include miso (soybean paste) and barley tea. There is little indication that either feed or food demand will increase in the near future. In the long term, some decline in feed demand is expected as Japan’s cattle population, dairy in particular, shrinks.
The Australian barley price jumped in 2013 due primarily to a tighter supply situation triggered by shrinking stocks, as production fell while demand stayed strong. The Canadian price also rose as a bullish demand from both overseas and domestic markets outweighed increased production. An improved supply situation in the United States led to a slight drop in the price of U.S. barley in 2013; however, it still remains higher than competitors’.
Along with rice and wheat, barley imports are controlled by MAFF as a “Staple Food”. MAFF has been hesitant to remove barley from the state trading system entirely, because it is a strategic alternative crop under the rice crop diversion program. Total imports from the United States peaked in 2008 at nearly 500,000 MT but plummeted with the resurgence of Australia as the leading supplier due to its price competitiveness and proximity to Japan’s major barley importing port in Kyushu. However, in MY2012/13, as the price competitiveness of U.S. barley improved, imports from the United States recovered significantly, although not nearly to the level of the early to mid-2000’s of 200,000 to 400,000 MT. Given that overall barley consumption, as well as Japan’s domestic barley production, is expected to stay flat, imports in MY2013/14 and MY2014/15 are forecast to remain at the MY2012/13 level.
Barley Imports by MAFF as a State Trading Enterprise
MAFF operates as a State Trading Enterprise (STE) and conducts two types of barley imports: 1) SBS imports of feed barley; and 2) SBS imports of food barley.
1) SBS Imports of Feed Barley
MAFF introduced the SBS system for barley for feed in JFY 1999, with approximately 360,000 MT contracted under three tenders. The allocation amount has been greatly raised since then, and was set at 1.28 million MT for the Japanese fiscal year 2013, which ends in March 2014. Bidding is held almost weekly, to allow for more commercially viable trade. So far this Japanese fiscal year, which ends in March 2014, forty-two tenders have been held.
2) SBS Imports of Food Barley
As noted in the WHEAT section, MAFF conducts an SBS system for food quality wheat and barley.
Nearly 250,000 MT of food barley was imported in JFY 2012: roughly 80 percent from Australia for shochu and beer; and 20 percent from Canada for beer and barley tea. Imports from the United States are used for beer. To date this fiscal year, MAFF has held eleven tenders, and approximately 142,000 MT have been imported.
As with wheat, there are two categories for barley. Category I is for vessel trade. Although most barley is imported by vessel, there is also Category II for container units. Category II provides a means for new varieties to enter the market.
Japan used to hold 350,000 MT of emergency barley stocks, but since 2006 they have been replaced by rice stocks. Since practically all the feed barley Japan needs can be imported through the SBS tenders with an ample allocation (1.28 million MT), MAFF explains that government-held emergency stocks are no longer necessary.
Production of rye is minimal in Japan.
Rye is almost exclusively used for feed in Japan. The main uses of rye are for cattle feed and swine feed. Like sorghum, most rye users consider it mainly as a substitute for corn. Since there is practically no domestic production, annual rye consumption and imports are directly linked with domestic cattle and swine production, as well as the relative prices of corn and other feed grains, particularly sorghum and wheat. As described in the following section, as the price competiveness of rye has worsened over the last few years, the utilization of rye in feed declined from about 74,000 MT in 2011 to 16,000 MT in 2012, and preliminary data indicates that it was at a similar level in 2013. Feed millers chose sorghum and wheat over rye as alternatives to high-priced corn, and the current utilization ratio of rye in feed is merely 0.1 percent. As rye is typically considered a marginal ingredient in feed, demand is highly susceptive to the supply situation and prices of sorghum and competing grains. For MY2014/15, Post forecasts consumption will remain steady; although, if the price situation shifts dramatically, demand for rye could easily fluctuate between 20,000MT and 100,000MT.
U.S. rye is significantly less price competitive than that of Germany or Canada, the two major suppliers for Japan. The price of German rye has been soaring since 2011/12 due to reduced crop size in the EU, especially Poland. The price of Canadian rye also rose significantly in 2012/13 as the tight supply situation there continues.
In the peak of MY2002/03, total imports of rye hit 415,000 MT, out of which 414,000 MT came from Germany. Due to dramatically weakened price competitiveness, rye imports shrank to 57,000 MT in MY2009/10. In MY2010/11, as the rye/sorghum price ratio moved in favor of rye, imports of rye recovered to the 100,000 MT mark, but halved in MY2011/12 as the price spiked again. In MY2012/13, imports declined further as the price situation worsened, and are expected to continue to struggle in MY2013/14 as prices of other grains are normalizing. For MY2014/15, imports of rye are expected to remain steady. However, if the price situation shifts dramatically, they could easily fluctuate between 20,000MT and 100,000MT.
Unlike corn, sorghum and barley, Japan does not hold strategic emergency stocks of rye. Commercial stocks are estimated to be minimal.
OTHER ISSUES OF INTEREST
Acceptance of Biotechnology
Although there are no official statistics, virtually all of the feed corn and a majority of the food corn Japan imports from the United States and South America are produced through biotechnology. Japan also imports roughly three million metric tons of soybeans, two-thirds of which are derived using biotechnology. Japan remains the world’s largest per capita importer of biotech food and feed. Japan has approved over 160 events for food use. New events are generally reviewed and approved within a predictable time frame through a science-based and transparent review process. However, as an increasing number of new events are expected to be introduced to the market, the pace of review and approval could become a major concern.
Overall, as a country that thrives on new technology, Japanese academia, experts and trade people at large accept new agriculture-related innovations including biotechnology. Consumers in general, however, remain averse to the term, which in Japanese has a connotation of “genetically manipulated.” When asked, a majority of consumers state that they would rather not purchase biotech-derived food. However, at the point of purchase, their behavior tends to differ from what they say when prompted. The sheer volume of biotech corn Japan imports for food use is one of the objective indicators that show the level of acceptance of the technology.
Japan’s Ports Prepare for Larger Size Vessels Post Panamax
Currently, even major ports in Japan are not deep enough to accept fully-loaded Panamax vessels. These bulk carriers are now loaded with between 58,000 and 60,000 MT of grains so that the bottoms of the vessels do not touch the bottom of the port. In the late 2000’s, Japan’s livestock and feed industry, led by Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JA), petitioned the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT), which has authority over port infrastructure management and budget, to address the issue and take expeditious action. Consequently, in May 2011, MLIT designated five major grain ports as “International Bulk Vessel Strategic Ports.” They are: Kashima, Shibushi, Nagoya, Mizushima, and Kushiro. In March 2012, MLIT established plans to deepen these ports to be able to accommodate fully-loaded Panamax by 2015 and Post-Panamax vessels by 2020. However, due to MLITs priority to reconstruct northern ports damaged by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the work has been delayed. No specific commencement date has been announced