(Item 8 in the Agenda)
41. Agricultural cooperatives play a big role in agribusiness in Japan, and they were providing much information to their members. However, they were not really involved in establishing and maintaining agribusiness statistics. The government, besides deciding what kind of statistics to collect, was publishing the statistics. Agricultural cooperatives could, however, express opinions to improve the statistics. A council to discuss the statistics in Japan has been created and under this council a sectional meeting on agricultural statistics had been included.
42. Japan had many extra-government organizations with a big role in distributing statistics. Although they were now being criticized because of inefficiency and being government-supported, they were still playing a big role in linking the government and the private sector. As for the agricultural sector, there were many extra-government organizations for each area - such as rice, wheat, livestock, vegetable, fruits, machinery. Some of them were preparing handbooks of statistics for each field. Agricultural cooperatives were also members of these organizations and were providing some support to the budget.
43. The organization that has the biggest role in maintaining and spreading agricultural statistics was Nourin Toukei Kyokai (Association of Agriculture and Forestry Statistics), which was publishing a number of agricultural statistics. Membership in this association and payment of the prescribed fees (100,000 - 250,000 yen) would entitle the organization-member or individual member to the agricultural statistics compiled and prepared by the organization. As of the last count, there were 300 organization-members, mainly national level organizations, research institutes and libraries. There were also associations at the prefecture level. The fees charged by the prefecture association were lower than that of the national level (10,000-20,000 yen). Most agricultural cooperatives were members of the prefecture-level associations which were also providing many statistics.
44. Many organizations were established by each industry such as food, fertilizer, machinery, and others. These organizations edited and published handbooks or newsletters on the statistics of their interest, which they send to their members.
45. Not many farmers had statistics (yearbook or handbook) at their fingertips. They obtained the data or information from several channels such as agricultural cooperatives, public offices (city, town, village), and extension advisers. Agricultural cooperatives or extension offices held meetings or lectures on techniques on agriculture. Most agricultural cooperatives published weekly or monthly bulletins or newspapers for their members. These bulletins were also an information source for the members.
46. Agricultural cooperatives obtained statistics from several channels. First, they themselves would have yearbooks or handbooks of statistics provided by Norin Toukei Kyoukai. Much information was provided to agricultural cooperatives by the federations at the prefecture or national levels or from public offices. The research institute was analyzing the statistics and providing reports or magazines to every agricultural cooperative. Several research institutes at the national level publish monthly magazines.
47. Farmers were also sourcing information from newspapers and magazines. Several newspapers specialized in agriculture or agricultural cooperatives and these were read by many farmers in their own homes. Among the farmers, Nihon Nougyou Shinbun (The Japan Agricultural News), published daily by an agricultural cooperative, was the most popular newspaper. The weekly Zenkoku Nougyo Shinbun (National Agriculture News) was published by Zenkoku Nougyo Kaigisyo (National Chamber of Agriculture). Other newspapers specialized in dairy, rice and others, and provided farmers with another source of information or statistics on agriculture. Agricultural cooperatives were also publishing magazines, the most popular in the rural areas being Ie no Hikari.
48. Computers and the Internet were likewise popular in rural areas. The role of Internet in distributing information had become bigger. Some statistics were provided through the Internet. JA Zenchu provided basic statistics on agriculture of Japan; while ALIC provided precise statistics on livestock and dairy industry. About 300 JAs now have websites, although the contents are still poor. JANIS and Agrinet websites of the agricultural cooperatives in the Nagano prefecture were cited as good examples of an agricultural cooperative operated website. They were providing much information about agriculture and agribusiness for the farmers.
49. A study of the MAFF showed that as of 2000 34.0% of farmers had personal computers, and 12.2% used the Internet. As the number of farmers who used the Internet would increase in the future, it was foreseen that the need to access statistics through Internet would be stronger. But the percentage that were using the Internet remained small, and it was difficult for the old generation to master and use computer. It was thus important for agricultural cooperatives to urge farmers to use computers in their farm management or as a means to get information. Some agricultural cooperatives held meetings to train farmers on the effective use of computers and the Internet.
50. Agribusiness statistics development in Japan was at a lower level compared with statistics for agriculture. The MAFF had exerted much effort on the preparation of agricultural statistics, but the statistics of food industry was not as sufficient. The government should allot more resources (manpower, money) to agribusiness statistics. Agricultural cooperatives should exert more effort to distribute information and statistics to farmers efficiently. Agricultural cooperatives also should use statistics more effectively in their management and marketing activities. Moreover, statistics should be user-friendly. Agricultural cooperatives should be more open in expressing opinions about statistics from the user side to improve the statistics and make them more user-friendly.
51. There was a need to reform the agricultural information and statistics system in Japan - there was too much information, and too many governmental and extra-governmental organizations. However, there were budget limitations and a decrease in the number of farmers. The statistics of Japan was so complicated and farmers were not specialists of statistics, limiting their appreciation of the value of statistics. In addition, there was the problem of the availability of the handbooks in the rural areas. Some information or statistics such as price information should be distributed to the farmers quickly and on time. It would also important to promote the use of the Internet in distributing information, especially in the rural areas where it would be useful for farmers.