April 21, 2004

rice grower's paradise

I learned in my Japanese class today that there's debate over the rice industry and its workings with the government in Japan. In 1942, during WWII, the government began buying rice from growers and selling at cheap prices through the Japanese Agriculture cooperative Association (JA). This helped keep prices low for consumers, and I believe it was with the goal of keeping the nation with enough food.

Zoom to today, after the war; the number of people buying and eating rice in Japan has been cut in half. The government continues to buy rice from growers, but fewer people are buying, so more and more rice is being stored up by the JA. Growers are lobbying to keep the status quo--after all, they have a guaranteed customer (the gov't) and are protected by the roil and toil of the economy and consumer demand. Rice fields fill up the countryside, and the government keeps buying. Who loses? The government, and subsequently, the Japanese people. Who do you think has to pay to store up all the unused and unbought rice?

Meanwhile, the growers are having a ball, sheltered from the reality of economic demand. Land is wasted, and resources are wasted; and the rice market is skewed.

Then there's the whole deal of imports of rice from abroad. Lunch boxes (erg, that is, boxed lunch sets with rice and meat, etc., called bentou) are imported from California with California rice. Rice growers in Japan ain't happy campers with that. Usually, plain uncooked imported rice would cost 490% more than Japanese-grown rice; however, these boxed lunches come in un-tariffed. The rice growing lobbyists urge the government to help protect them against these "evil" imports that are taking away Japanese jobs.

Adam Smith is doing somarsaults in his grave.

Enough of this silly hand-holding; wasn't that what broke the Japanese economic boom in the 90's?


Great post, thanks.

You hear about this agricultural subsidy stuff being applied to US and European countries all the time but never about the agricultural policies of Japan. Japan's rice industry isn't geared towards exportation, is it? And its interesting that you don't really hear Japan (or any other Asian country for that matter)voice out their domestic frustration with threats of loud angry trade wars. I suppose they couldn't afford it. Japan's rice industry situation resembles our textile industry of the '60s and our steel industry today.

#174 - Posted by: Jenn at April 22, 2004 09:49 AM

OT: Hey Joyce came into the center today and we decided that when you return we are going to go to PacBell for a game! Ok, sound good?

#175 - Posted by: Carol at April 23, 2004 01:41 AM

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