The definition of Local Food.
Carroll and Fahy (2014) proposed that the definition of ‘local food’ cannot be integrated for all people owing to the social construction, and what the ‘local food’ is depending on the geographic and social context for people. One of the dictionary defines the words of “locavore” as residents who eat only food grown or harvested within a 100-mile radius (the Oxford American Dictionary, 2007). At the same time, the Food Safety Modernization Act supposed that the definition of local food is the produced and purchased within 275 miles, in 2011. Moreover, Mrtinez et al. (2010) proposed that the ‘local’ should be defined by region and climate because there is a large difference of population between sparsely populated areas and heavily populated areas. As mentioned above, even though there are some differences of definition, the meaning of ‘local food’ is the production produced in the limited area. Recently, it is said that the local food might become significant to measure long-term food security for communities (Kaiser, 2011). Kaiser supposed that the strategies such as community supported agriculture and school gardens, and policy makers support to improve the access to local foods and sustainable food systems.
The market system of agriculture in Japan.
The food self-sufficiency rate in Japan is lower level compared with the world averages. Despite the circumstances, people involved in agriculture have been a tough condition, due to the economic recession and rising cost of animal feed and fuel. In such a background, young people are moving away from agricultural work has been becoming a serious issue (see Figure.1). Decreasing the agricultural population might lead to the food scarcity for the future, and this issue will appear in the other countries as well. Therefore, the population of agriculture and the role of local food are significant. In the case of the local food in Japan, there is a particular system of the market and supply chains. That is mainly regulated with the power of one organization (National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations). The farmers are supported largely by that organization and government. Meanwhile, they are passive to develop their work and their work is limited by systematic governance and institutions, and this is the reason that their income does not change a lot.
Figure 1: Declining of the agricultural population in Japan. (source: MAFF)
The new system of local food market in Japan.
Although there is a traditional marketing system, people who involved in agriculture have begun to have several ways of their selling system in recent years. They sell part of their production in the local shop, farmer’s shop, and online shop. There are several advantages in those selling systems.
- Decreasing the cost: Agricultural producer can sell their production directly to consumers. They do not need to through any supply chains and they can save their cost. Then, it has been becoming popular because consumers can buy such productions cheaper than in the supermarket.
- Decreasing the food waste: Farmers try to sell their misshapen vegetables and fruits with low price in those direct sales stores. Generally, there are several standards to provide in the markets, but farmers can sell all productions despite those misshapen productions became waste before. It leads to not only reducing food waste but also increasing the capacity of productions for eating.
- Safety and security: There is increasing interest in the safety of foods in today’s society. Therefore lots of agriculture producers have started to grow organic foods. In addition, there is a system which is displaying the production place and the producer for consumers to provide secure.
- Branding: It is difficult to access local food for people living in urban areas. In many case, local food should be produced in small areas and producers grow their products carefully, and not systematic. Therefore, local foods have a possibility to become a brand: good taste, high quality of nutrition, and safety.
In addition, lots of venture companies and local organisations focus on the possibility of agricultural development in rural areas due to the pressure of food situation in the past several decades. They are trying to develop agricultural systems and technologies. Indeed, they have a number of projects collaborated with local farmers and schools, and they encourage to start working in agriculture by changing the image of young people for agriculture. However, it is difficult to spread that small scale of local productions.
The role of Food Hub
For the food security, efficient system for expansion of local food from a small market in the limited region to mainstream markets is important. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that one of the emerging model, which is the ‘food hub’. The USDA defined that food hub is a business and organization that “actively manages the aggregation, distribution and marketing of source-identified food products, primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail and institutional demand.” In recent years, the model of food hub has been becoming a popular way for local producers to access markets for their production. The food hubs usually share the several information with end users such as place and way of production. Therefore, the food hubs are providing stronger interaction between producers and consumers and greater reliability of delivery service than producers sell their products individually. It leads to support the producers, especially small and mid-sized producers.
In conclusion, the role of ‘local food’ is becoming important, and we need to consider to improve the expansion of local food from the small market to the main stream of the big market for food security. It can lead the strength of interaction between urban people and local agriculture productions.