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Japan to support domestic potato production after poor harvest

The Japanese agriculture ministry will help domestic potato farmers increase production following a halt in sales of some potato chip products in the country due to a potato shortage, sources said Tuesday.

The ministry has included ¥3 billion for related costs in its budget request for fiscal 2018, the sources said.

 Some 80 per cent of potatoes for chips are grown in Hokkaido Prefecture.

The potato crop was poor there last year due to typhoons, forcing major domestic snack makers Calbee Inc. and Koike-Ya Inc. to halt sales of some products from spring this year to September.

To help Hokkaido farmers keep supplying enough potatoes to the processors, the ministry plans to shoulder half of the farmers’ costs for introducing large harvesting machines and potato varieties that are resistant to diseases and pests, the sources said, adding that it will also back efforts to boost production of seed potatoes.

In fiscal 2015, domestic potato production totaled some 2.4 million tons, showing a decline of 10 percent from a decade earlier.

Behind the continued output drop are difficulties in growing the crop due to its vulnerability to diseases and pests, small profit margins and the aging of producers.

On the other hand, the shipment of potatoes used for potato chips has grown more than 30 per cent in the recent 10 years.

Since Japan has severely restricted potato imports to prevent the invasion of diseases and pests, the switch to foreign potatoes cannot easily be made when a shortage in domestic potatoes occurs.

“We’d like to avoid potato supply shortage when we face bad weather again,” a ministry official said.

Source: The Japan Times

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