Education About Asia: Online Archives

The Japan Rice Paradox

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Riddle: How can it be that a country with an average land holding of only four acres can be nearly 100 percent selfsufficient in rice with domestic producer prices ten times higher than competing foreign countries?

Answer: The persistence of rice as the key crop and diet item in Japan must be understood in terms of long-term assumptions about local environmental conditions, quality of life, and sustainable community values. Demand is less, due to a decrease in the population number as well as consumption per capita. On the supply side, the government has maintained self-sufficiency in rice through “minimal access” to markets by foreign competition. By emphasizing the environmental adaptiveness of rice, the government protects rice through World Trade Organization “green-boxing,” whereby the commodity plays a key role in environmental protection and food security. For their part, the consumers favor locally grown rice for food safety, traceability, and connections to rural areas.