TOKYO -- Japanese farmers will probably find both new opportunities and new threats under the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, with rice and livestock as two crucial areas that will see major impacts.
Japan currently caps tariff-free rice imports at 770,000 tons. Under Monday's agreement, Japan has agreed to import 50,000 tons of U.S. rice and 6,000 tons of Australian rice a year without a tariff, gradually raising these volumes starting in the fourth year of the pact to reach 70,000 tons for the U.S. and 8,400 tons from Australia in the 13th year.
As a result, 10% more foreign rice without tariffs would be entering Japan, where rice consumption has been shrinking by 80,000 tons annually. Consequently, industry insiders fear a major blow to Japanese farmers.
Japan will add 60,000 tons of U.S. rice that are preferentially allocated in its tariff-free program. This will bring the total increase of U.S. tariff-free rice imports to 130,000 tons.
Beef and pork producers also face changes. Tariff cuts on low-price pork have spurred opposition from industry organizations. But the tariff reduction on meat will take effect over a decade or so, giving domestic producers time to adapt by sharpening their edge against international competition.
On the flip side, the TPP opens new avenues for Japanese farmers. The U.S. eventually will accept 6,250 tons of Japanese beef, higher than the current level by a factor of more than 30. Vietnam will eliminate tariffs on Japanese yellowtail and mackerel, too. The changes would create new business opportunities for export-minded producers.
"With the average age of farmers being nearly 70, reform was needed regardless of TPP," said Kazunuki Ohizumi, professor emeritus at Miyagi University. "Producers have to make more products with higher value and take other steps to go on the offensive abroad."