Let’s use one million tons of government stockpiled rice to help tackle child poverty!
Did you know that the Japanese government has stockpiled one million tons of rice? I was surprised to hear this from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) the other day at a study session in advance of “Kodomo-Takushoku” (Food delivery program for children and families) Promotion Council.
The annual consumption of rice per Japanese person is 54 kg (in fiscal year 2016)*1, so 1 million tons is about 18.5 million people.
This so-called “government stockpile of rice” is stockpiled to be released in the event of a rice shortage due to a bad rice harvest or a series of bad harvests. Every year the government buys around 210,000 tons of that and stores it for five years*2.
■The remaining stockpiled rice is used to feed animals!
The MAFF has been issuing stockpiled rice free of charge or at a cost for a portion of the rice used for school lunches to help children understand “the rice stockpiling system” and “the importance of a rice diet” (But the unit is 36 tons per year, not 10,000 tons).
In addition, in June 2020, the government started providing free stockpiled rice to “Kodomo Shokudo” (Local people and municipalities provide free or low-cost meals to children) and food banks in order to support the promotion of rice meals as part of the nutrition education, since the provision of meals at Kodomo Shokudo and other facilities is expected to play a complementary role to school meals as schools are forced to close their doors due to the spread of corona infection.
Granting of Government-Stockpiled Rice for School Meals, etc. (June 8, 2020, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries)
But! This system, which is a great deal of effort, is limited to cases where each Kodomo Shokudo or food bank has a limit of 60 kg (brown rice) and the amount of rice used is expected to increase from the previous year.
For example, in a municipality that provides Kodomo Takushoku to 600 households, the number of grains of rice used per household would not be enough, so we want the limit to be removed.
‘I mean, if the government has a million tons of stockpiled rice, they could provide 10% to 20% of that rice to children in poor households and give them enough rice to fill their bellies, right? Can’t you do something like that?
We asked the MAFF for help.
They responded with a disappointing answer: “We cannot allow the release of stockpiled rice to the private sector because it would disrupt the balance of rice supply.”
In other words, if the government gives away our stockpile of rice to children, they will stop buying it and the price of rice will collapse, and farmers will be in trouble.
”So what are the government going to do with the unused stockpiled rice?” When I asked them what they thought, they replied, to my shock, “It’s animal feed”!
Let’s spend it on needy children rather than feeding animals!!!!!
The relative poverty rate of Japan’s children is 13.5% (as of 2008)*3, which is about 2.5 million in terms of population, but if nearly 210,000 tons of stockpiled rice, which can be used to feed animals, were distributed to all of them every year, more than 80 kg of rice would be distributed per person, which would be a basic income for food.
■Please provide stockpiled rice for poor children!
The MAFF says that if the government gives out rice to households, they will stop buying rice and the price of rice will collapse, but to begin with, poor families are having trouble buying rice, not that they will stop buying rice. If they don’t give out rice, they just won’t eat it, so I don’t think it will affect the price of rice.
The purpose of the MAFF giving stockpiled rice to school lunches and Kodomo Shokudo is to get more children to eat rice and to say “Oh, rice tastes so good, I want to eat it every day.” Right?
If so, providing stockpiled rice to children from families who cannot afford to buy rice so that they can feel the taste of rice is well within the scope of the project.
To Ministry of Agriculture, please provide stockpiled rice for free to children of poor families!
I look forward to hearing from you.
*1 Relevant documents on rice (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, July 2018) p.6 https://www.maff.go.jp/j/council/seisaku/syokuryo/180727/attach/re_data3.pdf
*2 Please tell us about the system of the government’s stockpile of rice (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries)
*3 Overview of the 2019 National Living Survey (July 17, 2020, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare)
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