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Economy, Agriculture

farm plots, tenant farmers, commercial farming, sugar beets, Hokkaido

As of 1990, agriculture employed 7 percent of Japanís labor force, down from 21 percent in 1970. In 1999 agriculture (along with forestry and fishing) constituted 1 percent of GDP.

Due to Japanís many mountains, only 13.3 percent of the countryís total land area is cultivated or used for orchards. Although farms are found in all parts of Japan, commercial farming is concentrated in Hokkaido, northern and western Honshu, and Kyushu. Rice is the most important crop, and more than 40 percent of farmland is devoted to rice production. The government encourages farmers to convert rice fields to other crops because Japan produces more rice than it needs. In addition to rice, wheat and barley are important grain crops. Other leading crops include sugar beets, potatoes, cabbages, and citrus fruits. Relatively little acreage is used for livestock.

Although agricultural productivity increased dramatically in Japan after World War II, Japan still imports much of its food. In 1946 and 1947, U.S. occupation authorities confiscated land from absentee landlords and resold it to former tenant farmers at low prices. Japan also embarked on a program to modernize farming with new crop strains, fertilizers, and machinery. These measures raised rural living standards and elevated farm productivity. However, as farm plots remained small, averaging 1.4 hectares (3.5 acres), productivity leveled off. To help maintain farmersí incomes, the government eventually restricted food imports and granted subsidies to farmers amounting to as much as 75 percent of their incomes. Nevertheless, most farmers work part-time in industry in addition to running their farms. Despite the subsidies and quotas, Japan imported 36 percent of its food in 1995.

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