Modernising farming in Japan: Root and branch

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Modernising farming in Japan

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The prime minister is overhauling the powerful farm co-operatives, with some success

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TOKYO

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20150314_asp501.jpg

ONE reason to take seriously recent moves by Japan’s government to reform the country’s vast, quasi-statist system of agricultural co-operatives is a personal story. The politician pushing hardest for reform—alongside Shinzo Abe, the prime minister—is Yoshihide Suga, the chief cabinet secretary and Mr Abe’s consigliere. Mr Suga’s late father was a struggling farmer from Akita prefecture, among the poorest, who in middle age gave up trying to make a living from growing rice. He switched to strawberries, starting a growers’ union outside the dominant co-operative system, Japan Agriculture (JA).
Mr Suga has described how he watched his father free himself from JA’s tentacles. He is not alone in his dislike: JA is popular with few outside its 240,000 employees, and many farmers …<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>