Posted on April 11, 2018 at 3:36 PM by Iowa Corn
After an overnight flight from Vietnam the class landed in Tokyo, Japan on Saturday, March 10th. The class was greeted in Japan by Tommy Hamamoto from the US Grains Council and he gave us an introduction on Japan. Japan currently has the 3rd largest GDP in the world, and a population of 130 million people. However due to aging citizens, the population is expected to decrease to 90 million people by 2060. Japan also has a very open trade policy with trade agreements with many of our competing agriculture countries. They recently signed onto TPP-11, so other countries will have a trading advantage over the US.
Sunday was spent learning about Tokyo. The class went to a Japanese garden, a river tour that highlighted downtown Tokyo, and a visit to the Tokyo national museum. History and culture are very important to the Japanese, so it was important for the class to get an understanding of the culture before meeting with many Japanese companies.
On Monday morning, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) gave a briefing on US exports to Japan. Japan is the largest buyer of both US pork and beef and the 2nd largest buyer of US corn. Japan purchases $7.3 billion of US beef per year. However, because Japan signed TPP Australian frozen beef will have a tariff advantage over US beef. US beef will pay a 38.5% tariff and Australian beef will drop to 19.5%. Monday afternoon was a meeting with JA Zen Noh, a nation-wide fully integrated agriculture cooperative in Japan. They provide inputs to farmers as well as buy their product and operate restaurants and retail that sell the product. Following that meeting was a visit to AEON supermarket to understand how product is sold in stores. Both the US beef and pork are specifically marketed so the consumer knows where the product originated. US products are highly regarded in Japan, but the domestically produced product is still valued higher.
Tuesday the class visited the Yamanashi prefecture and had a courtesy call with the Vice Governor. Yamanashi is a sister state to Iowa and has a very close relationship. Following a typhoon that hit Japan in 1959, Iowa sent over hogs and corn to help the citizens of Yamanashi. The citizens were very grateful and a sister state relationship was started. The class was able to learn about this relationship and also the agricultural products that are produced in Yamanashi. Following the courtesy call, the class visited a feed mill. Grain quality is very important at this mill, and they commented how they prefer naturally dried grain versus the artificially dried grain because of the higher starch content.
On Wednesday the class was able to explore the area around Hakone, including views of Mount Fuji. Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan as well as an active volcano. Hakone is very close to Mount Fuji, so steam vents and calderas are common. Following the tour of the Hakone area, a bullet train was taken back to Tokyo that went at speeds up to 170 mph.
Thursday a hog operation was visited. By law, the farmer cannot apply untreated manure to a field and wastewater must be cleaned before putting into river. The hog operation must be able to treat about 750 tons of manure per day. The end product of the manure is then given to anyone willing to take their product. Following the hog facility an agriculture high school was toured. This high school has 4 different programs that students choose from. Half of the high school graduates will attend college and the other half will enter the workforce.
The final day in Japan the class toured a vertical farming facility at a university. Farmable land is hard to come by in Japan, so vertical farming is gaining popularity as a way to increase production on that land. Tomatoes are grown in greenhouses and all gases that enter the greenhouse are controlled to maximize growth. This is a management intensive system, as all aspects of the crop development are controlled. Following the visit the class went to the airport to start the long journey back to Iowa.
I-LEAD class 8 would like to thank everyone that made this mission possible especially Iowa Corn and our donors. It was a very educational and interesting opportunity that every member of the class was able to take something from. It is very important for Iowa agriculture to understand our international markets and how relationships can play a very important role in maintaining those markets.