Rice consumption is less than half of its peak. The harsh reality of rice farming in Japan
There is a cry that rice consumption is decreasing in Japan, but do you know how much it is decreasing? We would like you to know the reality of rice farmers.
Rice consumption is decreasing
Rice consumption is decreasing year by year. The consumption of rice per person per year peaked in 1962 at 118,3 kg, but by 2016 it had dropped to 54,4 kg, less than half the peak.
Source: 農林水産省 米をめぐる関係資料(PDF:)
Causes of Declining Rice Consumption
The following are some of the possible causes of the decline in rice consumption
- Diversification of the diet to include bread and noodles
- Low birthrate and aging or declining population
- The increasing number of single-person households and dual-earner households, which have decreased the ratio of rice cooking and increased the use of convenience stores and eating out
The price of rice is going down
While the price of wheat, alcohol, and many other foodstuffs is increasing year by year, the price of rice is decreasing. The price per 60 kg of brown rice dropped from 23,607 yen in 1993 to 13,255 yen in 2021. As a result, there are many dual-income farmers who are not able to eat only as farmers and are now farming on the side.
Some people said, “Farming is subsidized, isn’t it?” However, you have to be a corporation to get subsidies. There is no advantage for an individual farmer with low income to become a corporation and receive no subsidy.
The number of farmers is also decreasing
The number of rice paddy farmers has decreased from 2,302,000 in 1995 to 940,000 in 2015, a decrease of nearly 60%. The population is aging, with an average age of 66.8 years. Many farmers have told their children that they do not need to succeed as farmers because it is not profitable to be rice farmers, and the number of successors is also decreasing.
Source: 農林水産省 稲作の現状とその課題について(PDF)
Local production for local consumption is important
Rice has temporarily disappeared from supermarkets due to the coronavirus. The number of farmers will continue to decrease, but we must be able to provide an adequate supply of rice when the demand for rice suddenly increases.
Overseas, Russia announced the suspension of wheat exports, and meat plants in the U.S. were shut down, causing confusion. When food shortages occur overseas, the priority is on the country of origin, and export restrictions are imposed.
Having experienced this confusion, I believe that from now on it will be necessary to increase Japan’s food self-sufficiency ratio, rather than relying on foreign products for food. A society in which both farmers and consumers can be happy is required. On this website, we hope to provide information that will help people enjoy eating rice in a delicious and enjoyable way and to think together about the importance of food.