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Cablegate: Japan Plugs Food Security and Self-Sufficiency In

VZCZCXRO5439
RR RUEHFK RUEHKSO RUEHNAG RUEHNH
DE RUEHKO #3204 3240915
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 190915Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY TOKYO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8957
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 6495
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2886
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 8629
RUEHFK/AMCONSUL FUKUOKA 1086
RUEHNAG/AMCONSUL NAGOYA 9101
RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA 3445
RUEHOK/AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE 4874
RUEHKSO/AMCONSUL SAPPORO 1655
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 3438
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS TOKYO 003204

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE PASS USDA FOR DUS TERPSTRA, USDA/FAS DANIEL BERMAN,
SUZANNE HALE
HHS/FDA/CFSAN FOR DAVID ACHESON
USTR FOR AUSTR CUTLER, MICHAEL BEEMAN, ERIC HOLLOWAY, RON
MEYER, AND JANE DOHERTY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECON ETRD JA TBIO
SUBJECT: JAPAN PLUGS FOOD SECURITY AND SELF-SUFFICIENCY IN
THE MEDIA

1. (SBU) Despite cuts in the Japanese government's overall
budget, politicians recently approved an additional 1.7
billion yen ($17 million) for the Ministry of Agriculture,
Foresty, and Fisheries (MAFF) to promote food-related
"self-sufficiency strategic public relations." Using full
page advertisements in major newspapers, MAFF launched the
"Food Action Nippon" campaign October 6, which aims at
getting the Japanese public to "share their concerns about
imports and take specific action to raise self-sufficiency."
The program includes a social networking website
(http://www.syokuryo.jp), which lists celebrity supporters
ranging from actors and chefs to Olympic athletes. Companies
are encouraged to submit on-line applications to use the Food
Action Nippon campaign logo in their own public relations and
advertising activities.

2. (SBU) In similar fashion, state-funded NHK Television in
October ran two, one-hour specials cautioning viewers about
the risks of becoming overly dependent on food imports,
especially from the United States. The documentary claims
the USG and U.S. industry have collaborated in a decade-long
conspiracy to make Japan more import-dependent. The program
also casts U.S. grain suppliers as greedy and unreliable.

Why Self-Sufficiency Won't Bring Security
-----------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Japanese interest groups and politicians have said
the country is over-reliant on imports and depict the
situation as detrimental to the country's strategic
interests. For many years, these groups have sought to
increase domestic food production as the best way to ensure
its food security. However, geographic and demographic
constraints, as well as changes in consumption patterns away
from rice, mean Japan must continue to rely on imports to
feed its people. Japan is a mountainous country where the
average farm size is only about 1/100th the size of a U.S.
farm. Seventy percent of Japanese farmers are over the age
of 60 and the bulk of their income comes from non-farm
activities. Japan's food self-sufficiency on a calorie basis
has fallen from 73 percent in 1960 to less than 40 percent
today, and there is little the Japanese government
realistically can do to reverse this trend.

Why Politicians Keep Trying
---------------------------

4. (SBU) The call for greater food self sufficiency receives
strong support from more obvious constiuents such as farmers.
However, even Japanese consumers seldom complain publicly
about high import duties and high prices for food that result
from such policies. In a poll released November 16 by the
Cabinet Office, 89 percent of repondents indicated they would
choose domestic food products over imports (up seven percent
from a survey conducted in 2000), with safety concerns
topping the list of reasons for doing so. Japan's major
political parties -- the LDP and the DPJ -- rely on
protectionist tools to win rural votes and both advocate
enhanced food self-sufficiency goals. The Ministry of
Agriculture recently established a goal to achieve 50 percent
self-sufficiency in agriculture by 2015.

SCHIEFFER

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