Japanese Butter Prices Continue Their Upwards Churn

In the West, bread and butter are so taken for granted that they’re used in a common idiom about the bare necessities. But in Japan, that creamy moist spread appears to be turning into one of the utmost of indulgences.

Indeed, Nikkei Asia reports that butter could reach a price pinnacle this winter. A 200-gram packet of salted butter in Japan already costs ¥434 ($3.50) since October, which is quite close to a record high. On top of that, the current cost is a four percent increase from the fall of 2014, and a 12 percent jump from three years prior. Even worse is the price of unsalted butter, which can cost as much as ¥480 yen for a 200-gram package.

So why would this simple yellow spread be treated like it’s worth its weight in gold? The Financial Times says the price increase can be attributed to domestic butter shortages stemming from protectionism, inefficiency, misdirected subsidies and aging dairy farmers. FT also noted that Japan only has a food self-sufficiency of 40 percent, and added that falling food prices around the world may affect the future, serving as a new twist in the bizarre saga of Japan’s long-distorted food policies.

However, these agricultural issues may be pushing some growers towards innovation. United Nations University recently ran an article detailing how 25 percent of farming households in Japan are comprised of urban agriculture, and that city-growers are more productive than their rural counterparts. Hopefully those more conventional farmers can learn a thing or two from these  ambitious urban growers – who source freshly safe products, educate their neighbors about food issues, and more – in order to become more efficient and keep prices from escalating.

–Kyle Mullin

Image: David Masters/Flickr, used under CC

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