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Japan Needs Steps To Soothe Farmers’ Trade Fears

A man burns a rice field in preparation for planting near Fukushima, northern Japan.RE UTERS /Carlos Barria

tokyo/reuters / Japan must craft steps to soothe farmers fears about the impact of a U.S.-led free trade initiative that manufacturers advocate joining to help them compete with Asian rivals, a senior ruling party lawmaker said Oct. 18.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and key ministers appear keen to join talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership ( TPP) but many in his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) fear angering the powerful farm lobby, which wants to preserve the high tariffs that keep many small-scale, part-time producers in business.

Kyodo news agency said the government planned to compile a basic policy to enhance farming, forestries and fisheries sectors. The policy may aim to increase the average size of Japan s rice farms, whose typically tiny acreage makes them uncompetitive in terms of cost, as well as create a system to pay benefits to young farmers, Kyodo said.

Experts say Japan s agriculture sector, where the majority of farmers are elderly and part time, faces a grim future without reforms whether or not Tokyo joins free trade deals.



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