Japan’s devastating and ongoing humanitarian crisis will require the United States and other nations to ensure Japan’s food security needs are met during this critical period. Facing ruined rice fields along its northeast coast and crippled grain storage infrastructure, as well as the potential threat of radiation spreading to croplands across the country, basic necessities such as food and water are needed immediately. But more sweeping food and agricultural assistance will be needed in the medium-term for Japan, the world’s largest importer of food.
Under normal circumstances, Japan already has difficulty meeting the food calorie requirements of the Japanese people through its own domestic agricultural production. Even before the multiple disasters of earthquake, tsunami, and an escalating nuclear crisis befell the country, Japan was the world’s largest importer of corn, the third-largest importer of soybeans, and relies on imports for 86 percent of its wheat supplies. According to the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Japan is only 39 percent food self-sufficient—compared to the United States at 145 percent, or France at 127 percent.
Japan is also a wealthy country, boasting the third-largest economy in the world, and is capable of purchasing the food it needs. Problem is, soaring worldwide food prices are likely to rise further once Japan emerges from its multiple crises. That’s why U.S. and global action to assist Japan with priority emergency food and water needs, agricultural investment, and open markets for basic foodstuffs—some countries are placing limits and hoarding food exports due to rising demand and prices—is needed now.
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