The agriculture ministry has stepped up efforts to certify more agricultural producers in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, as the number of meals to be served for athletes and staff will likely exceed 15 million, the amount distributed during the 2012 London Games.
Agricultural producers supplying food for the upcoming quadrennial sporting events are required to obtain certificates under the Good Agricultural Practices third-party system to guarantee safety.
In Japan, about 4,500 farmers and farming organizations have acquired either the Global GAP, issued by a German association, or the Japan GAP (JGAP), managed by the Japan GAP Foundation. This is likely to fall short of the number of producers needed in the 2020 Games, sources familiar with the situation said.
A big obstacle is the expense of obtaining the certificates, with close to ¥100,000 in screening fees needed for the JGAP.
In March, the organizing committee for the Tokyo Games announced a decision to use food made by GAP-certified producers for meals to be served at the Olympic village and other related facilities.
With the current situation, Japan would have to procure a considerable amount of food from abroad, the sources said.
The ministry has set a goal of more than tripling the number of certified agricultural producers from the current level by the fiscal year ended March 2020.
In addition to providing subsidies to cover JGAP screening fees, the ministry plans to give priority to producers aiming to obtain GAP certificates in specific subsidy programs in fiscal 2018.
The Fukushima Prefectural Government plans to take advantage of the 2020 Games to dispel misinformation about the safety of food produced in the prefecture, home to Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, where triple reactor meltdowns occurred due to damage from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
In May this year, Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori declared that Fukushima aims to rank top among the country’s 47 prefectures in terms of the number of producers with GAP certificates. At present, there are nine GAP-certified producers in the prefecture.
By supplying locally produced food for the games, the prefecture hopes to promote the Fukushima brand in and outside Japan.
The prefectural government is now actively holding seminars to inform farmers and agricultural cooperative officials about the advantages of gaining GAP certification.
A company that operates a fruit farm producing persimmons, peaches and apples in the Fukushima city of Aizuwakamatsu won the JGAP certificate in January.
The process involved preparation of daily work reports and other documents. The costs, including expenses for pesticide storage facilities, were high, according to the firm.
Still, Mitsuhiro Saito, 60, president of the company, said, “The acquisition of the certificate helped boost our awareness about the importance of maintaining a clean environment and labor safety.”
But his farm may face a shortage of fruits for regular sales if products are supplied for the 2020 Games.
Saito now believes that it would be better for his farm to supply products for the Olympics and Paralympics only if inventories are enough, rather than placing absolute priority on the Games and creating problems for regular customers.