Kuramoto Diary #541 -【Yamada Nishiki Price Increase】
The other day, we received news from JA Hyogo (Japan Agricultural Cooperatives) about a discussion on raising the price of Yamada Nishiki rice in Hyogo Prefecture. They expressed a desire to increase the price by 650 yen per 60kg sack. As I listened, my eyes widened in surprise. The current price is at 26,790 yen for the top quality just adding about 2% higher!! It's hard to believe that this will convince the Yamada Nishiki rice farmers under the agricultural cooperative.
As reported in the media, with the current inflation in various prices, it's speculated that farmers' operating expenses have also significantly increased. Is this acceptable? It doesn't seem right. When asked, it was mentioned that the decision was made in consultation with the sake brewing association. I couldn't help but think, "Are they out of their minds?" Sake brewing associations have their interests, and it's not as simple as just pushing for lower purchase prices.
Will the management of Yamada Nishiki rice farmers truly be sustainable with this? Dassai exclusively uses Yamada Nishiki, and there might be a different perspective than what sake breweries generally think, which is, "The lower the price of rice, the better." Why don't they come and ask the largest purchaser and user of Hyogo Yamada Nishiki, Dassai, for their opinion? Maybe because they don't want to disturb the peaceful relationship between agricultural organizations and sake brewers.
Let's consider the management situation of Yamada Nishiki rice farmers here.
Generally, the emotional supporters of farmers might imagine the scale of farms to be around 3 cho (9000 tsubo: almost 320,000 Square foot) in cultivated area. At this scale,
they probably don't own tractors that cost millions of yen, and they don't seem to be the
"dedicated rice farmers" on the scale that people imagine.
So, what might be the annual income from cultivating Yamada Nishiki for these dedicated farmers? Let's assume a harvest of 9 to 1 (9 sacks per 30 tsubo), which is the average yield in Hyogo. Let's estimate conservatively with a fee from the agricultural cooperative and a small portion for JA's profit, leaving 20,000 yen per sack for the farmers. The calculation would be 30 cho × 9 sacks × 20,000 yen, which is 54 million yen. This will be reduced by fertilizer costs and depreciation of agricultural machinery.
How much income do you think is left for the farmers? Compare it with your annual income. It doesn't seem sustainable for any decent human being. Yet, this is the reality. We are forcing these people to "work hard for the sake of Japanese culture and food security." Not forcing? Japanese society and administration are definitely forcing it.
The agricultural cooperative and its upper organization, JA, have the reality of representing the collected Yamada Nishiki from these farmers, negotiating prices and sales as representatives of farmers, and determining the cultivation quantity for each farmer. (Making too much is bad for rice prices!) (Even if the price of Yamada Nishiki is lowered, pack sake breweries won't buy it because it's too expensive!) (As a result, the sales quantity of Yamada Nishiki will "absolutely" not increase) (Farmers' take-home income will also "absolutely" not increase).... What is this?
Will the motivation of Yamada Nishiki rice farmers be maintained with this? It's impossible! What's concerning is the resigned or accepting faces of farmers that we've seen many times before. How long will they keep these faces on farmers? It's not right to push everything onto the agricultural cooperative and JA. They have been doing this with the approval of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Essentially, the faces of these resigned farmers reflect the consequences of current agricultural policies, turning a blind eye to the current situation, and imposing misplaced goodwill on farmers, portraying them as vulnerable in Japanese society.
Isn't it strange? Isn't it imposing on Japanese farmers, not just Yamada Nishiki, the idea of "being a good farmer who accepts the exploitation of their enthusiasm"? The decision on the price increase of Hyogo Yamada Nishiki by JA Hyogo this time seems to symbolize what we have been doing to Japanese farmers.
!!All the farmers around!!
The price decision by JA Hyogo this time will likely have a decisive influence on the prices of Yamada Nishiki nationwide. Many farmers may feel compelled to make price decisions in parallel. Have the courage to present a higher price increase to Dassai. Of course, unfortunately, this is also a business, so we may not accept the presented price as it is. There might be cases where Dassai rejects it, stating that the quality is not justified by this price. However, it's not necessary to adhere to this price increase range.
Dassai hopes that Yamada Nishiki rice farmers, through cultivating Yamada Nishiki, can generate healthy profits, pass on their management to the next generation, and be farmers who can compete globally. Dassai's overseas exports represent 15% of the entire Japanese sake industry in terms of value. In other words, we are serious. When going abroad, you can't compete without a truly good sake. When trying to make good sake, good Yamada Nishiki is essential.