Civil Society

September 4, 2006


Co-op Union Sets Up Council to Promote Homegrown Rapeseed

Keywords: Civil Society / Local Issues Food Government NGO / Citizen 

The Seikatsu Club Consumers' Co-operative Union, a collective body of 25 associated co-ops in Japan, established a council to promote self-sustaining production of domestic rapeseed, in response to a government decision to eliminate rapeseed subsidies three years from now. The first meeting of the council was held on May 29, 2006 in Yokohama Town, Aomori Prefecture, a major rapeseed farming area in northern Japan. Council members discussed survival strategies for continued production and consumption of homegrown rapeseed.

Rapeseed farming in Japan has been subsidized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, but the subsidy programs are to be completely discontinued after the end of the current three-year program for self-sustaining production of quality rapeseed (2006-2008). Council members and other stakeholders are now struggling to find ways to stand on their own in three years' time. Without subsidies, however, it is feared that rapeseed prices will increase and that Seikatsu Club will not be able to maintain its contracts with growers.

Due to an increase in inexpensive imports of oil made from canola, a rapeseed cultivar, from overseas, Japan's rapeseed production dropped dramatically after peaking in the 1960s, when the country was completely self-sufficient in rapeseed oil. According to fiscal 2003 data, the total acreage planted in the country was 809 hectares, a massive reduction from its peak of 260,000 hectares. Whereas 2.08 million tons of canola oil were imported in FY 2003, domestic rapeseed production was only 1.015 tons, accounting for only 0.05 percent of rapeseed/canola oil .consumption

Seikatsu Club has been endeavoring to promote domestic rapeseed by offering imported canola oil blended with 10 percent homegrown rapeseed at an affordable price. At the meeting, the council discussed further efforts, including crop rotation with a wider variety of crops, improvement in rapeseed varieties, development of new applications and products using domestic rapeseed, and networking among producers. Consideration was also given to the use of rapeseed as a biomass energy source, in particular as biodiesel fuel for farm tractors.

Posted: 2006/09/04 11:38:21 AM
Japanese version