Agriculture is placed as the centerpiece of Shizo Abe’s package of economic policy, known as Abenomics. Since his return to the president of the Liberal Democratic Party in September in 2012, Shinzo Abe has repeatedly expressed his high expectation on Japan’s agriculture as one of the most promising industries. Abe argues that agricultural income should be doubled and agricultural exports should be tripled if its fill powers are exerted. Abe claims that the major stumbling block for agriculture is too much political power of the Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives, popularly called Zenchu, which is an apex body of Japan's system of agricultural co-operatives. Among Japanese mass media, Zenchu has been described as one of the most powerful voting groups for the Liberal Democratic Party. According to Abe, Zenchu is only concerned in its own vested interests and prevents innovation in the agricultural industry. In the current session of the Diet, Abe has submitted new bills to reduce the power of Zenchu. Taking the responsibility for failing to persuade Abe to realize how Zenchu has promoted agricultural development, Mr. Akira Banzai, the president of Zenchu, has resigned. Abe’s agricultural policy makes a sharp contrast with the traditional agricultural policy in the successive LDP’s governments (including the first Abe cabinet from 2007 to 2008). Why does Abe take such an unfriendly attitude to Zenchu? Is really Zenchu is so harmful for the agricultural industry? Does Japanese agriculture really have such high potentials? Why did Abe change agricultural policy so drastically after the resignation of the first cabinet? By examining these questions, the speaker explains a new and tricky dynamics of Japanese agriculture. The speaker reveals the fact that, contrary to mass media’s popular image of ‘ever strong Zenchu,’ Zenchu’s political power started declining in the middle of 1990s and sharply dropped in the late 2000s. The speaker also describes that political groups of the manufacturing and commercial industries, which support Abenomics, are now becoming more and more active in staring agriculture-related businesses for the purpose of receiving agricultural subsidies. The speaker points out that agricultural subsidies are now used as a cover for the implicit collusion between the current Abe government and the political groups of manufacturing and commercial industries: i.e., instead of Zenchu, manufacturing and commercial sector are cow becoming the major recipients of agricultural subsidies.
Professor Yoshihisa Godo received his PhD from the University of Kyoto in 1992. His research fields include development economics and agricultural economics. Godo’s Development Economics (3rd edition), co-authored with Yujiro Hayami and published by the Oxford University Press in 2005, is especially well known. His Japanese book, Nihon no Shoku to Nou (Food and Agriculture in Japan), received the prestigious 28th Suntory Book Prize in 2006. Three of his books were translated to Mandarin and published by Chinese publishers. He was on sabbatical leave at the East Asian Institute of the National University of Singapore (from April 2013 to March 2014, from August to September 2014, from August to September 2015 and from August to September 2016), the Economic Growth Center at Yale University (from April 2005 to March 2006), and the Asia Pacific Research Center at Stanford University (from April 1997 to March 1998). Prof Godo has served as a committee member on the Osaka Dojima Commodity Exchange, a Special Councillor to the Osaka City Government and a member of the Special Advisory Committee for Regional Revitalisation in the Kagoshima Prefectural Government.