Japan draws up manual for possible food crisis

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Japan draws up manual for possible food crisis

TOKYO Jan. 3 Kyodo - The government has drawn up a manual to prepare for a possible severe food crisis in the future that features a switch from rice to high-yield potato and other root vegetables as the nation's main staple, government sources said Tuesday. The emergency food supply policy, drawn up on the basis of the 1999 agricultural basic law, assumes a number of possible threats -- abnormal weather in Japan, poor harvests in foreign countries and a decrease in agricultural production due to global warming and disruption of world trade by regional conflicts.

The sources said the government is expected to endorse the manual later this month.

The handbook assumed as a worst-case scenario a total suspension of food imports. In this case, potatoes and other tubers should be cultivated as a staple food instead of rice with output increased 4.5 times from the current level, it said.

The manual also proposed that production of flowers, feed for livestock, low-calorie vegetables and fruits be decreased so that more farmland can be allocated for raising tubers. Riverbeds and golf courses could also be turned over to agricultural production.

The government will also consider purchasing staple products, imposing price controls and taking over distribution, according to the manual.

The food policy defined two levels of food crisis. Level 1 refers to a drop in the supply of wheat and soybeans by 20% and level 2 a cessation of imports threatening provision of the minimum energy intake for an adult per day of 2,000 calories.

The manual said the government will only control food production in case of level 2.

The government would establish an emergency task force in both cases and take measures including the release of food supplies such as rice from state storage, the sources said.

Under the level 2 scenario, the government will ensure farmers have sufficient access to fertilizers and fuel to guarantee at least 2,200 calories per person per day by increasing production of potatoes, wheat and soybeans.

Japan has a 40% self-sufficiency rate of foods on a calorie basis, ranking bottom among major industrial nations.

The government endorsed a basic food plan in March 2000 in line with the new agricultural basic law focusing on guaranteeing a stable food supply to the nation.

The plan targets raising the self-sufficiency rate to 50% in 10 years.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), January 03, 2001

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