Japanese retailer Aeon plans to produce around 60 tons of rice in Saitama Prefecture next year, using paddy fields made available under a government-sponsored farmland-leasing program, becoming the first major retailer to do so. Aeon also intends to obtain GLOBALG.A.P. Certification for its production process.
The first such move by a major non-agricultural enterprise, this could prompt other businesses to follow suit and help rejuvenate the country’s aging farming sector.
The Japanese government launched a “farmland bank program” in early 2014 to rent idle and noncontiguous parcels of cropland across the nation, consolidate them, and lease them to large-scale producers. This is part of the government’s policy to help raise production efficiency of the nation’s agriculture through a shift to large-scale commercial farming.
As a first step, Aeon farming subsidiary Aeon Agri Create is expected to sign a contract to lease 11 hectares of rice fields in Hanyu, Saitama Prefecture by the end of this year and start production of a local brand of rice named Sainokagayaki in the fall of 2015.
Fears over the sustainability of Japan’s network of individual farms was part of the reason Aeon set-up its own farming unit in 2009. Aeon Agri Create now grows fruits and vegetables at 15 farms around the country, with cropland totaling 230 hectares. After establishing a new business model of managing both farming on dry land and rice production in Hanyu, the Aeon unit will also consider rice production elsewhere in Japan. The company aims to have 500 hectares under cultivation by 2015. Japan’s top supermarket chain has also set a goal of self-sourcing 40 percent of its vegetables, up from less than 1 percent now