A cattle-breeding corporation in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, which was devastated by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, will begin raising about 5,000 beef cattle in Vietnam by the end of this year at the earliest, in collaboration with a state-owned company there.
The Vietnamese company will prepare a ranch and young cattle, and Japanese farmers will provide their expertise in livestock farming.
The Japanese side will be able to receive $3 million (about ¥300 million) annually in consultation fees. It will be a particularly large operation for a move overseas by farmers in a disaster-hit area (see below).
“It can be not only post-disaster reconstruction but also a new growth strategy for Japan’s agriculture,” a farming expert said in expectation.
The agricultural corporation that will begin the project in Vietnam is Ushichan Farm Co., one of the largest beef cattle breeders in the Tohoku region. The company now raises about 4,000 beef cattle in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures. It ships out beef rich in fat — called shimofuri — and red meat with less fat.
Tsunami following the tremors washed away cattle barns and about 50 cattle. Due to damage from rumors in the wake of the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, sales in the year after the disaster fell by about ¥500 million. However, workers at the company have improved the quality of beef through such steps as utilizing tablet computers in breeding management.
Its Vietnamese partner is Saigon Agriculture Incorporation (SAGRI), a state-owned firm based in Ho Chi Minh City.
In Vietnam, volumes of beef consumption have been rising along with its economic growth. SAGRI paid attention to the high-level production skills of Japanese beef-producing farmers to improve the country’s production volumes and qualities of beef.
Red-meat-type beef is popular in Japan, so SAGRI asked Ushichan Farm to collaborate and the two sides signed a business partnership contract in August this year.
SAGRI will prepare a 500-hectare ranch, cattle barns and about 5,000 young cattle in Ho Chi Minh City. Ushichan Farm will provide such techniques as breeding management that uses individual identification numbers and how to mix feeds.
After conducting administrative procedures in the country, the Japanese company will begin raising the cattle by the end of this year at the earliest. Beef from the Vietnamese ranch will be sold in local supermarkets and other stores starting around 2018. Sales will be evenly shared by the two corporations.
Eyeing the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact, the Japanese side plans to import red meat from the cattle to be raised in Vietnam in the future. Ushichan Farm also aims to prepare for international competition with products from the United States and Australia.
“We want to make [the project] an opportunity to send out information about Japan’s livestock industry,” said Kazutaka Sato, 39, senior managing director of Ushichan Farm.
According to an official of the Japan External Trade Organization: “Such a large-scale investment in agriculture in Vietnam is rare. It indicates how high the Vietnamese side’s expectations are.”
Kazunuki Oizumi, a professor emeritus of Miyagi University who is an expert on agricultural economics, said, “Exporting skills and techniques can result in new growth not only in the disaster-hit areas but also in Japan’s agriculture overall.”
■ Moves overseas by farmers in disaster-hit areas
In coastal areas in Miyagi Prefecture devastated by tsunami, farmers have begun businesses overseas. For example, an agricultural production corporation in the town of Yamamoto has grown strawberries in India since autumn 2012, and farmers in the city of Iwanuma have grown rice in Vietnam since summer 2014. This is partly because exporting products from the prefecture has become difficult, as other countries’ restrictions on imports of farming products from the disaster-hit areas were made stricter in the wake of the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.