Falling rice prices

2010/09/28
--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 27
EDITORIAL: Falling rice prices
日本の農業―安いコメで発展する道を

Lower rice prices may spell serious trouble for farmers but are welcome news for consumers.
 「安いコメ」は、生産者にとってつらい話でも、消費者から見れば喜ばしい。

The government's first response to the prospect of a sharp decline, compared with usual years, in the prices of rice to be harvested this year should be based on the viewpoint and interest of consumers.
今年産米の価格が例年より大幅に下がる見通しとなってきたことも、まずは消費者本位の発想で受け止めるのが筋ではあるまいか。

The decline in rice prices is a product of an oversupply of the staple food in this nation. In addition to a massive carry-over of unsold rice from last year, when rice prices also dropped, an expected bountiful crop this year is likely to result in a sizable glut.
 米価の下落は、コメの過剰が原因だ。すでに値が下がっていた昨年産米の在庫が大量に持ち越されるうえ、今年産のコメの作況が良いため、過剰米はかなり膨らむと見込まれる。

Even if depressed rice prices cause losses for rice growers, the income support program for farming households introduced this year by the government led by the Democratic Party of Japan will guarantee them a minimum level of income.
 米価下落で農家が採算割れに陥っても、民主党政権が今年から導入した「戸別所得補償制度」があるので、農家は最低限の所得は保証される。

But the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (Zenchu), the national organization of local agricultural cooperatives, is lobbying the government to take steps to prevent rice prices from sinking.
ところが、農協(JA)の全国組織である全国農業協同組合中央会(全中)は、政府に米価維持を求めている。

Specifically, the organization is demanding that the government buy surplus rice by using, ahead of schedule, the new rice stockpiling system that the farm ministry plans to introduce next fiscal year.
 具体的には、農林水産省が来年度から導入を計画している新備蓄制度を前倒し活用し、過剰米を買い上げよというのである。

But we find it difficult to support Zenchu's lobbying campaign.
 しかし、全中などの主張には同意しがたい。

The biggest factor behind declining rice consumption is the shrinking and aging of the nation's population. It is glaringly obvious that the government's policy to maintain rice prices by purchasing surplus rice will reach its limits sooner or later. This approach will not solve any of the structural problems within the Japanese agricultural sector that cause an oversupply of rice.
コメの消費が減っている最大の要因は、人口減と高齢化の進展である。過剰米買い上げで価格維持を図ろうにも、どこかで限界に達するのは目に見えている。過剰米を生む農業の構造問題は、そうしたやり方では解決できない。

It should be remembered that the income support program for farming households was created on the assumption that rice prices would be allowed to decline.
 そもそも、戸別所得補償制度は米価の変動による「安いコメ」を認めるという発想に立って設けられたのではなかっただろうか。

For decades after the end of World War II, the government maintained rice prices through the so-called acreage-reduction policy to adjust supply. This system was designed to support the income of rice farmers by forcing consumers to buy rice at prices kept artificially high.
 日本の戦後農政は、長らく減反政策でコメの供給量を調節し、米価を維持した。消費者に高いコメを買ってもらうことで農業収入を下支えしたが、その弊害は大きかった。

However well intended, this policy has had many undesirable side effects for the agricultural sector. Although the government spent a total of 7 trillion yen ($83 billion) over the years to finance the acreage-reduction policy, Japanese agriculture has remained in a steady decline.
The present serious shortage of young farmers who can become the future backbone of agriculture in this nation and the vast amount of abandoned farmland can be said to be a result of this policy.
減反には累計7兆円の財政資金も投じたが農業の足腰は弱くなるばかりで、後継者不足や広大な耕作放棄地も生んだ。

Now the government should move in the direction of integrating efforts to aid the agricultural sector through a taxpayer-financed system that will allow rice prices to fall in the domestic market.
 この際、農業を支える仕組みを納税者負担に一本化しつつ、「安いコメ」への道を開くべきだ。

Such a move would enhance the international price competitiveness of Japanese rice and thereby make it easier to open Japan's farm market to imports.
そうすることで日本のコメの価格競争力が高まり、農産物の市場開放もしやすくなる。

This policy shift could bring huge benefits to the Japanese people as a whole by eliminating the biggest obstacle in Japan's trade negotiations with other countries for free trade agreements.
 日本の貿易交渉の最大の弱みだったこの問題を解消して、自由貿易協定を広げることが出来れば、国民全体にとって大きな利益となる。

Lower rice prices at home would improve the prospects for Japanese rice exports. Reputed for its safety and taste, Japanese rice has the potential to gain popularity in markets in China and other rice-eating Asian nations.
 日本のコメ価格が下がれば、コメ輸出も展望しやすくなる。安全性と食味で定評のある日本のコメは、中国をはじめとするアジアのコメ消費地向けの有望な輸出品となりうる。

The current system of propping up the income of farming households is seriously flawed, as it is still married to policies that trim rice production to maintain artificially high prices.
 現在の戸別所得補償制度には、重大な欠陥がある。いまだに米価維持を前提とする減反政策を続けていることだ。

Since the program covers all farmers selling rice, including very small-scale growers, it is hampering consolidation of farmland into the hands of large-scale farmers.
また、所得補償の対象を零細農家も含む全販売農家に広げたことが、大規模生産者への農地集約の障害となっている。

The time has come for new policy efforts to solve these challenges and improve the competitive environment for domestic farmers, so that Japanese agriculture can develop, even if rice prices fall.
 これらの課題を克服し、「安いコメ」でも発展できる農業への扉を開くべきときが訪れている。
[PR]

by kiyoshimat | 2010-09-29 03:46 | 英字新聞

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