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Japan Starts Worrying About El Ni?o

Japan has joined the list of Asian countries worried about agricultural production as a possible El Ni?o weather cycle inches closer.

Its agricultural ministry said Wednesday the country needs to be proactive in preparing for “negative effects on crops” caused by a return of El Ni?o. Typically Japan experiences cooler and wetter conditions during an El Ni?o while Southeast Asia is drier and hotter. The last El Ni?o was in 2009.

The ministry said crops in Japan that may be affected include rice, vegetables, and feed grasses for cattle.

If it happens, this could lead to Japan having to import more rice, which goes very much against the grain. Rice is one of Japan’s most protected sectors, with it sporting an import tariff of 280% and the government also pays high subsidies to Japanese rice farmers. As a result, only 7% to 9% of the rice eaten in Japan is imported.

The last time very cold weather caused large-scale Japanese rice imports was in 1993, sending ripples through the regional rice market.

Japanese households are already feeling the pinch from higher vegetable prices due to unusually hot weather last summer and a bitterly-cold winter and heavy snow which damaged greenhouses. Though Japan is more open to imports of vegetables than it is rice, about half of Japan’s vegetables are produced at home.

Bakeries and households in Japan will also be paying more for butter this year, due to a shortfall in milk production in Hokkaido which has created a shortage of butter and skim milk powder. As a result, Japan will import its largest-ever emergency shipment of butter.

The Japan Meteorological Agency, like the weather bureaus of India and Australia, is forecasting a return of El Ni?o this summer and while Japan didn’t provide a probability in its June update, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology predicts a 70% chance of its arrival by August.

The good news is that the climate disruption this time is not expected to be as severe as some previous El Ni?o years, and grain and rice stocks are comfortable in Asia.

Even so, some governments are already taking action.

The Philippines Department of Agriculture has started cloud-seeding operations in some parts of the country, while the Indian government is stocking up on seeds of fast-growing crops and is deepening reservoirs to hold more water.

Michael Boddington from Asian Agribusiness Consulting (AAC) has been involved in agribusiness in Asia since 2000. AAC has office both in Vietnam Ho Chi Minh City and China Beijing. So AAC has a thorough understanding of the Viet Nam and China aqua industry and produces up-to-date research reports on the market. We can offer insights on supply and demand trends and comments on the future structure of Asian agribusiness. If you would like to know more please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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