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Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Mining in Japan


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Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Mining in Japan

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing form the primary sector of industry of the Japanese economy, together with the Japanese mining industry, but together they account for only 1.3% of gross national product. Only 20% of Japan's land is suitable for cultivation, and the agricultural economy is highly subsidized protected.
Agriculture, forestry, and fishing dominated the Japanese economy until the 1940s, but thereafter declined into relative unimportance. In the late 19th century (Meiji period), these sectors had accounted for more than 80% of employment. Employment in agriculture declined in the pre-war period, but the sector was still the largest employer (about 50% of the work force) by the end of World War II. It was further declined to 23.5% in 1965, 11.9% in 1977, and to 7.2% in 1988. The importance of agriculture in the national economy later continued its rapid decline, with the share of net agricultural production in GNP finally reduced between 1975 and 1989 from 4.1% to 3% In the late 1980s, 85.5% of Japan's farmers were also engaged in occupations outside of farming, and most of these part-time farmers earned most of their income from non-farming activities.
Japan's economic boom that began in the 1950’s left farmers far behind in both income and agricultural technology. They were attracted to the government's food control policy under which high rice prices were guaranteed and farmers were encouraged to increase the output of any crops of their own choice. Farmers became mass producers of rice, even turning their own vegetable gardens into rice fields. Their output swelled to over 14 million metric tons in the late 1960s, a direct result of greater cultivated area and increased yield per unit area, owing to improved cultivation techniques.
Three types of farm households developed: those engaging exclusively in agriculture (14.5% of the 4.2 million farm households in 1988, down from 21.5% in 1965); those deriving more than half their income from the farm (14.2% down from 36.7% in 1965); and those mainly engaged in jobs other than farming (71.3% up from 41.8% in 1965). As more and more farm families turned to non-farming activities, the farm population declined (down from 4.9 million in 1975 to 4.8 million in 1988). The rate of decrease slowed in the late 1970s and 1980s, but the average age of farmers rose to 51 years by 1980, twelve years older than the average industrial employee.

Crop production is vital to Japan despite limited arable land (13% of the total area) and the highest degree of industrialization in Asia. Steep land (more than 20°) has been terraced for rice and other crops, carrying cultivation in tiny patches far up mountainsides. With the aid of a temperate climate, adequate rainfall, soil fertility built up and maintained over centuries, and such a large farm population that the average farm has an area of only 1.2 ha (3 acres), Japan has been able to develop intensive cultivation. Agriculture exists in every part of Japan, but is especially important on the northern island of Hokkaido, which accounts for 10% of national production. Since World War II (1939–45), modern methods, including commercial fertilizers, insecticides, hybrid seeds, and machinery, have been used so effectively that harvests increased substantially through the 1970s. Japan is the second-largest agricultural product importer in the world (after the US), with total agricultural product imports of $34.6 billion in 2001. At $32.1 billion, Japan had the largest agricultural trade deficit in the world that year.
Almost all soybeans and feedstuffs and most of the nation's wheat are imported. In 1999, Japan produced 11.5 million tons of rice, the chief crop. In that year, rice accounted for about 93% of all cereal production. About 39% of all arable land is devoted to rice cultivation. Overproduction of rice, as a result of overplanting and a shift to other foods by the Japanese people, led the government in 1987 to adopt a policy of decreasing rice planting and increasing the acreage of other farm products. For many years the government restricted imports of cheaper foreign rice, but in 1995 the rice market was opened to imports, as the government implemented the Uruguay Round agreement on agriculture. Other important crops and their annual production in 1999 (in thousands of tons) include potatoes, 3,400; sugar beets, 3,803; mandarin oranges, 1,360; cabbage, 2,400; wheat, 583; barley, 205; soybeans, 187; tobacco, 64; and tea, 91.
As a result of the US-occupation land reform, which began in late 1946, nearly two-thirds of all farmland was purchased by the Japanese government at low pre war prices and resold to cultivators on easy terms. By the 1980s, nearly all farms were owner-operated, as compared with 23% before reform. A more telling trend in recent years has been the sharp growth in part-time farm households. Farmers are aging, and 77% of farm income is derived from other sources, such as industrial jobs. Although agriculture accounts for only 2% of GDP, about 10% of the population lives on farms. Despite increasing urbanization, 59% of all farms still cultivated less thanoneha (2.7 acres) in 1999. As a result, Japanese agriculture intensively utilizes both labor and machinery for production. In 1998, Japan had 2,210,000 tractors and 1,208,000 combines.
The nation's forest resources, although abundant, have not been well developed to sustain a large lumber industry. Of the 245,000 km² of forests, 198.000 km² are classified as active forests. Most often forestry is a part-time activity for farmers or small companies. About a third of all forests are owned by the government. Production is highest in Hokkaido and in Aomori, Iwate, Akita, Fukushima, Gifu, Miyazaki, and Kagoshima prefectures. Nearly 33.5 million cubic meters of round wood were produced in 1986, of which 98% was destined for industrial uses

Japan ranked second in the world behind China in tonnage of fish caught—11.9 million tons in 1989, down slightly from 11.1 million metric tons in 1980. After the 1973 energy crisis, deep-sea fishing in Japan declined, with the annual catch in the 1980s averaging 2 million tons. Offshore fisheries accounted for an average of 50% of the nation's total fish catches in the late 1980s although they experienced repeated ups and downs during that period. Coastal fisheries had smaller catches than northern sea fisheries in 1986 and 1987. As a whole, Japan's fish catches registered a slower growth in the late 1980s. By contrast, Japan's import of marine products increased greatly in the 1980s, and was nearly 2 million tons in 1989.
The Japanese fishing industry, both domestic and overseas, has long been centered on the Tsukiji fish market, in Tokyo, which is one of the world's largest wholesale markets for fresh, frozen, and processed seafood.
Japan also has greatly advanced the techniques of aquaculture or sea farming. In this system, artificial insemination and hatching techniques are used to breed fish and shellfish, which are then released into rivers or seas. These fish and shellfish are caught after they grow bigger. Salmon is raised this way.
Japan has more than 2,000 fishing ports, including Nagasaki, in southwest Kyūshū; Otaru, Kushiro, and Abashiri in Hokkaidō. Major fishing ports on the Pacific coast of Honshū include, Hachinohe, Kesennuma, and Ishinomaki along the Sanriku coast, as well as Choshi, Yaizu, Shimizu, and Misaki to the east and south of Tokyo.
Japan is also one of the world's few whaling nations. As a member of the International Whaling Commission, the government pledged that its fleets would restrict their catch to international quotas, but it attracted international opprobrium for its failure to sign an agreement placing a moratorium on catching sperm whales. Currently Japan conducts "research whaling" for minke whales in the oceans surrounding Antarctica.

Mining in Japan is minimal because Japan possesses very few mining resources. Japanese mining was a rapidly declining industry in the 1980s. Domestic coal production shrank from a peak of 55 million tons in 1960 to slightly more than 16 million tons in 1985, while coal imports grew to nearly 91 million tons in 1987. Domestic coal mining companies faced cheap coal imports and high production costs, which caused them chronic deficits in the 1980s. In the late 1980s, Japan's approximately 1 million tons of coal reserves were mostly hard coal used for cooking. Most of the coal Japan consumed is used to produce electric power.
Oil wells have been drilled off the west coast of Honshū and Japan has oil concessions in North Sakhalin. Iron is scarce outside of Hokkaidō and northwest Honshū, and iron pyrite has been discovered in Honshū, Shikoku and Karafuto. A modest quantity of copper and gold is mined around Honshū, Hokkaidō and Karafuto.
Japanese coal is found at the extreme ends of the country, in Hokkaidō and Kyūshū, which have, respectively, 45 and 40 percent of the country's coal deposits. Kyūshū's coal is generally of poor quality and hard to extract, but the proximity of the Kyūshū mines to ports facilitates transportation. In Hokkaido, the coal seams are wider and can be worked mechanically, and the quality of the coal is good. Unfortunately, these mines are located well inland, making transportation difficult. In most Japanese coal mines, inclined galleries, which extended in some places to 9.71 kilometres underground, were used instead of pits. This arrangement is costly, despite the installation of moving platforms. The result is that a miner's daily output is far less than in Western Europe and the United States and domestic coal costs far more than imported coal.
As the coal mining industry declined, so did the general importance of domestic mining to the whole economy. Only 0.2% of the labor force was engaged in mining operations in 1988, and the value added from mining was about 0.3% of the total for all mining and manufacturing. Domestic mining production supplies an important quantity of some non-metals: silica sand, pyrophyllite clay, dolomite, and limestone. Domestic mines are contributing declining shares of the country's requirements for some metals: zinc, copper, and gold. Almost all of the ores used in the nation's sophisticated processing industries are imported.

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