Agriculture remains an important sector in Japan’s economy, although its share of GNP is declining (to 2.0% in 1999). The country’s agriculture employs 4.1 million people (6.6% of all employed). Small-scale peasant land use predominates. Despite the agrarian reform, the dwarf type of peasant farms prevails in the country (sometimes the plot has less than 0.5 hectares). Even small pieces of land often do not represent one whole, but are divided into smaller ones and scattered in different places. Under these conditions , it is possible to carry out only small mechanization. More powerful mechanization is found in large farms.
The cultivated area of the country is 5.3 million hectares (14.8% of the land area), and the sown area exceeds it due to the fact that in some areas two, and in the south three crops are harvested per year. Japan meets 70% of its food needs through its own production, including fully satisfied the demand for rice. in 1999, the rice harvest amounted to about 13 million tons.
More than half of the sown area is occupied by cereals, a little more than 25% is occupied by vegetables, the rest of the area is reserved for fodder grasses, industrial crops and mulberry.
The dominant position in agriculture is occupied by rice. The yield of this crop averages 45 c / ha in irrigated fields, and for some varieties reaches 50-55 c / ha. Maintaining rice yields at a high level is due to a number of reasons: an increase in the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, improved water supply (especially as a result of the widespread use of electric motors for irrigation), effective breeding work. Bred seed varieties are characterized by good yields and resistance to adverse weather conditions and diseases.
At the same time, there is a decrease in the harvest of such grain crops as wheat, barley, which is caused by low profitability of their cultivation and competition from imported grain.
Of great importance is vegetable growing, which has become a very profitable industry for suburban farms. Vegetables on suburban farms are usually grown year-round in a well-fertilized and protected ground (beds are covered with films).
Sugar beet harvests in Hokkaido and sugarcane in the south are increasing. Tea plantings are increasing. The harvest of tea leaves in Japan now exceeds 100 thousand tons per year. Citrus fruits, apples, pears, plums, peaches, persimmons, grapes, chestnuts, walnuts, watermelons, melons are grown; pineapples are cultivated in greenhouses. In Honshu, strawberries are grown, under which large areas are occupied.
Animal husbandry, previously among the underdeveloped sectors of the economy, began to develop actively after the Second World War. This was due to an increase in domestic demand for meat and dairy products, which previously had very limited distribution. In the 90s of the twentieth century, the herd of cattle reached 5.5 million heads, of which almost half were dairy cows. Pig breeding has developed in the southern regions of the country. In suburban farms, poultry farming occupies an important place. Animal husbandry in Japan is characterized by high productivity. In terms of meat production, Japan ranked 14th in the world in 1999 (3.251 million tons).
The center of animal husbandry is the north of the country – the island of Hokkaido, where special farms and cooperative farms have been created. Almost 1/4 of the entire dairy herd in Japan is concentrated in Hokkaido.
A feature of Japanese animal husbandry is that it is based on imported feed, especially a lot of corn is imported. Local forage grasses are considered unproductive, and their collection is small. Own production covers no more than 1/3 of the needs of livestock in feed.
Fishing plays an important role in providing the population with food. Before the Second World War, the Japanese practically did not eat meat, so the only source of animal proteins was fish, and carbohydrates – rice. And today, in terms of fish consumption per capita (60-70 kg per year compared to 17-18 kg for the world average), Japan is still ahead of all other countries, although fish and meat are now consumed in the same quantities. Marine products provide 40% of the animal protein contained in the diet of the Japanese. In 1999, the fish catch in Japan was about 8 million tons (4th place in the world). Japan’s fishing fleet numbers tens of thousands of vessels, and fishing ports are counted in the hundreds and even thousands.
Since the arc of the Japanese islands stretches from north to south for almost 3.5 thousand km, the pattern of catches in different parts of the coast varies quite a lot. In the waters of the warm Kuroshio current, tuna, mackerel, sardine are caught; in the waters of the cold Oyasio current on the northern flank – mainly herring, mackerel, cod.
The coastal zone also serves as the main mariculture area. Oysters, shrimps, lobsters, king crab are bred here. Underwater plantations are also very widespread, on which algae are grown, then collected by bagrams and hooks. Seaweed is used for food and for iodine.
The southern coast of Honshu is also famous for its pearl trade. Every year, 500 million pearl shells are mined here, and an ethnic group called ama has long specialized in fishing.
In the early 80s of the last century, 77% of the total fish catch in Japan accounted for its 200-mile zone, 14% for free sea areas and 9% for free economic zones of other countries (Russia, USA, New Zealand, etc.). During this period , however, fish catches within the 200-mile zones of other countries declined markedly. In the 90s of the twentieth century. from the largest exporter of fish and seafood, Japan gradually turned into an importer. One of the most important suppliers of such products to Japan was Australia.
The increase in imports is largely due to an increase in domestic demand while depleting national resources. This all the more forces Japan to pay increased attention to fish farming. In the 90s. 32 species of fish, 15 species of crustaceans, 21 species of mollusks were artificially grown here. The breeding of red sea bream, Japanese flounder, and blue crab has increased many times. Studies conducted in Japan on the cultivation of sea tuna have confirmed the possibility of growing this purely marine fish in various cages. In Japan, large-scale experiments have been undertaken to restore the salmon herd. Already in the mid-80s, about 30 million salmon were grown in Japan – one for every four inhabitants of the country, and the total catch of artificially bred salmon exceeded 100 thousand tons.
Japan generally owns the first place in the world in the technology of aquaculture, which originated here in the VIII century AD. e. Here the most diverse types of aquaculture are developed, artificial spawning grounds, fish “pastures” have been created. An artificial reef programme has been implemented and the catch in coastal waters has already doubled. The state program for the development of aquaculture also provides for the creation in the near future of about 200 fish factories and the allocation of about 30 million hectares of coastal waters for various types of mariculture, which is thirty times higher than the area of water areas currently used.