Handbooks of Research on International Political Economy series
Edited by Alessandro Bonanno and Lawrence Busch
Chapter 8: Transition of agriculture and agricultural policies in Japan: From postwar to the neoliberal era
In the second half of the twentieth century Japan experienced unprecedented economic growth and became the second largest economy after the United States. Behind this economic expansion, less recognized is that the agricultural sector played an essential role for the country’s recovery from the Second World War and the following Rapid Economic Growth. When Japan, in turn, entered the Low Economic Growth period in the early 1970s and introduced neoliberal policies in the 1980s, the agricultural sector started to suffer from the negative consequences of globalization. As a result the agricultural sector in Japan is experiencing a crisis that features: (1) one of the lowest levels of food self-sufficiency ratio (39 percent of daily needed calories) among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, (2) the quite rapid aging of the sector in which the average age of a farmer is 65.8 due to the lack of farming heirs and (3) more than 10 percent of total arable farmland abandoned (MAFF 2011a). Moreover, in 2011 a significant portion of the country’s rural areas already suffering from this prolonged crisis were hit by the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunamis as well as radioactive contamination caused by explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
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