JAPAN ORGANIC AGRICULTURE ASSOCIATION
No.502, Ueki-building, 4-10, NISHI-GOKENCHO, SHINJUKU-KU, TOKYO, 162-0812, JAPAN
"TEIKEI"system, the producer-consumer co-partnership and
the Movement of the Japan Organic Agriculture Association
Country Report for the First IFOAM Asian Conference
19-22. Aug. 1993 in Hanno, Saitama, Japan
1. Out line of the JOAA (->)
2. Background: the rapid development of industrialization and the modernization of agriculture in Japan (->)
3. Distribution of organic products (->)
(1) In the beginning there was "teikei" (->)
(2) Growing markets for organic products (->)
(3) The recently established regulation of labeling (->)
4. Of producers seeking to be involved in the conventional market (->)
5. The organic agriculture movement based on "teikei" (->)
(1) Basic idea of "teikei" (->)
(2) Ways of "teikei" (->)
THE TEN PRINCIPLES OF "TEIKEI" (A SUMMARY) (->)
6. Organic agriculture movement for self-reliant and self-sufficient localities (->)
7. For the days to come (->)
|1. Out line of the JOAA|
The Japan Organic Agriculture Association(JOAA) is an association which was founded in October, 1971. It is a non-profit voluntary organization. It consists mostly of producers and their consumers who want to develop and expand the organic agriculture movement. It is exclusively funded by the membership fee. It is not subsidized by any government or corporation. It does not put any commercial advertisement in its monthly newsletter, and so stays independent in the economic sense.
Around 1970 when JOAA was established, Japan was in the middle of the incredibly and unprecedentedly rapid economic growth, the annual net GNP growth rate being more than 10%. The hasty industrialization brought about environmental contamination and destruction. There were diseases and poisonings caused by industrial chemicals one after another. The Minamata disease was one of the most tragic cases. It was the time when the economic efficiency was the motto all over the country; when foods were full of chemical additives; when the agriculture largely reliant upon chemicals was encouraged; when human life and natural environment began to be greatly damaged.
Some consumers, especially in urban areas, were very anxious about the safety of food and stood up to obtain uncontaminated food; for example, eggs, milk and processed food without chemical additives. On the other hand some farmers, who were aware of the harm done to human bodies and livestock by agricultural chemicals and of the decreasing fertility of the soil, started to practice organic farming. The establishment of JOAA united these individuals and encouraged them to help each other.
Teruo Ichiraku, former president of the Cooperative Research Institute, gave a call for the unification, stimulated by the activities of Masanobu Fukuoka, well-known for his natural farming, Giryo Yanase, a doctor who had pointed out the close relation between contaminated food and resulting diseases and Shunichi Wakatsuki, one of the leading doctors devoted to medical care in rural areas, all of whom were lamenting the harm done by synthetic chemicals. The number of the launching members was 29. The first representative was Tomonosuke Shiomi. Among the other important figures were Teruo Ichiraku, Jin Adachi and Toshinao Yokoi, both of whom were authorities of micro-organisms, and Yukio Tsuyuki, a leader of natural farming.
"Yuki", part of the Japanese version of our association, means that there are laws and principles behind the dynamism of natural phenomena. It leads to the belief that farmers must adapt themselves to these laws and principles and help them work. Later another meaning was added to it; that is, "an organic (equivallent to "Yuki") human relationship" should be built between producers and their consumers.
There are about 3,000 members in our association at present. Growers occupy 20 to 25% of them. Others are mainly consumers, among others there are doctors of agriculture and medicine, economist, co-op workers, journalists and others.
We publish our monthly newsletter "Soil and Health", hold monthly seminars, and hold courses for those who want to be involved in the organic agriculture movement (twice a year). Meetings on a specified theme of organic agriculture are also held. The general conference takes place once a year. All these are meant to get the members associated with each other and to develop the movement. Any person that will agree with our principles can be a member of our association.
|2. Background: the rapid development of industrialization and the modernization of agriculture in Japan|
Roughly speaking, Japan is in the Temperate Monsoon Zone. The sun shines along time and there is a lot of rain (1,200 to 3,000mm a year), and it has four definite seasons. 70% of the land is covered with forests, so the arable soil is limited. Almost 80% of farmers' farm land are not exceeding 1.5 ha each. But the land is gifted with numerous rivers and streams and with fertile soil. Annually 2 to 3 kinds of crops are rotated in dry fields and wheat or some other vegetable is grown after rice is harvested in the paddies. Varieties of vegetables, grains, and fruits are raised. Rice is considered as a staple and is grown all across the country. Paddy fields work as flood mitigators and as reservoirs of underground water. Their function of preserving the natural environment is to be reconsidered and re-evaluated.
Rural communities lost their vitality during World War ・. In spite of that, after the war, farmers were forced to provide their products to urban areas, where food was urgently running short. They were also asked to increase the productivity of their farming. On the other hand, landlords were ordered to release most of their land under the Occupation policy. As a result there were a great numbers of independent farmers. They were enthusiastic and improved traditional agricultural methods and techniques, which led to higher productivity. Until the 1960's agriculture was complex and basically self-sufficient at the local level, farmers' lives were almost self-reliant, too.
However, the USA started to export its surplus wheat to Japan in 1954, as a by-product of a military agreement between the two countries, which gave vent to an increasing amount of agricultural products exported by the USA into this country. Since 1960 the greatest emphasis has been placed on the economic growth in Japan and rural areas have been victims, supplying their labor to urban cities. Agriculture has been required first of all to be productive under the Agriculture Basic Law enacted in 1961. "Modern Agriculture" has been supposed to be large scale, monocultural, mechanized, well-equipped, specialized, and dependent on chemicals and fossil fuels energy since then.
Consequently Japanese agriculture has been exposed to a great crisis; rural communities have been exhausted; dairy products have been contaminated by chemicals, anti-biotics and the like.It also faces other serious problems; (1)more and more farmers depend on another occupation to make a living; (2)there are fewer and fewer young male persons to engage in farming (and many of them have difficulty getting married); (3) farmers will not grow crops which do not pay well; (4) soil fertility is being lost because of the lack of humus in it; (5) large-scale successive monocultures bring damage; (6) plant diseases and pests occur frequently due to the loss of the ecological balance; (7) human bodies, agricultural produce, soil, underground water, rivers and streams, and the air are contaminated by agricultural chemicals; (8) livestock is kept in extremely artificialized and unhumanistic ways; (9) the farming area is decreasing; (10) the food self-sufficiency rate is declining (especially that of grain) and there is an enormous amount of livestock feed imported.
In the 1980's a huge quantity of agricultural products were imported to stop the trade imbalance. The food self-sufficiency rate continued to drop, and it was 46% based on caloric intake in 1991. In 1992, the government has presented a policy that fewer farmers should manage on a larger scale and commercialistic corporations should be invited in to get the agricultural management more efficient and competent to be globally competitive. The policy also insists on the preservation of the natural environment and yet it does not seem to be very enthusiastic, and without showing any program or plan to reduce the use of agricultureal chemicals.
Rural areas are invaded by expanding cities, golf courses and resort facilities. Too much emphasis on manufacturing and commercialistic industry has made little of agriculture (naturally including the area and people involved in it).
Many farmers are not pround of their occupation and their traditional life-style now, and they have difficulty having a hopeful vision. The younger generation is not willing to take over and there were only 1,800 graduates from agricultural schools who dared to start farming last year. On the other hand, you find some young people quitting their jobs in big cities and getting into the world of organic agriculture in search of a brighter future.
|3. Distribution of organic products|
(1) In the beginning there was "teikei"
Our association has made it a principle to establish the "teikei" system between the producers and the consumers. "Teikei" is an idea to create an alternative distribution system, not depending on the conventional market. Though the forms of "teikei" vary, it is basically a direct distribution system. To carry it out, the producer(s) and the consumer(s) have talks and contact to deepen their mutual understanding: both of them provide labor and capital to support their own delivery system. In this system they usually set delivery stations, where the nearest consumers of 3 to 10 families can get the delivered products. (See Chart 2)
The Japanese organic agriculture movement started with this "teikei" system. "Teikei" is not only a practical idea but also a dynamic philosophy to make people think of a better way of life either as a producer or as a consumer through their interaction. (See Chapter 5)
(2) Growing markets for organic products
In the second half of the 1970's organically-grown produce began to be dealt by some wholesalers and greengrocers and some time later at natural food stores, department stores and supermarkets. They were sensitive to the demands of consumers for safer food.
In the 1980's, especially after the Cherynobyl accident in 1986, people grew tremendously concerned about the safety of food, and demands for organically-grown produce skyrocketted. Responding to this mentality, merchants rushed into this section. They just wanted to make money, selling the products at extraordinarily high prices.
As a result there was a flood of fakes. Labels such as "organic", "no chemical", "less chemical", "natural farming", "micro-organism farming" etc were found at many grocery stores and with those labels goods were sold at higher prices
(3) The recently established regulation of labeling
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery enacted "The Special Labeling Guideline on Organically-grown Vegetables and Fruits" in October, 1992 and enforced it in April, 1993. Furthermore, it legalized "The Specified JAS Standard" (standard for the ways of growing crops); JAS itself originally authorized the standards and labels of processed food. It is very likely that the government wants to control the certification program.
However, these standards are greatly influenced by the demands of profit-seeking traders and corporations and they are not defined very strictly. For example, labels are set for "products with a reduced amount of chemicals" and "products with a small amount of chemicals". These ambiguous definitions are sure to allow deception and they injure the original intention of the certification. Leading consumer groups have been opposed to the standards made by the Ministry of A.F.F., because they are going to prevent in many ways the development of the genuine organic agriculture which can be operated only in the ecological circle.
We, members of JOAA, can by no means agree with the standards, either.
As is mentioned above, the process of the legalization of the Japanese standards for organically-grown products is very different from those of the USA or European countries. In those countries organic growers and their supporters took the leadership, offering their wisdom and knowledge learned through their own experiences and practices. And the standards were made by a very democratic procedure. It was not so with Japan. If the system is not made in a democratic way, there is no telling if it will be carried out democratically. It could be under commercialistic control and prevent a sound development of organic agriculture.
|4. Of producers seeking to be involved in the conventional market|
The standard-certification system itself has a lot to discuss here in Japan. Most of all, the Japanese wholesale market has many layers of wholesale dealers within the structure. They cut in between producers and consumers and make them blind to what is happening on each other's side. That is why the producersand consumers of JOAA formed the unique relationship of "teikei" and has maintained the mutual support backed up by the mutual trust. Out of the effort to keep up the system came their innovative ways to recruit organic farmers and to get the produce distributed and collected. The consumers have been able to get organic produce through, as it were, the market of their own creation.
They were unable to stand the conventional market system, which places more value on the superficial appearances of products and on the delivery efficiency than on the safety of the products. They knew that way of thinking would without fail cloud the conscience of producers and the appreciation of consumers. The important thing is that the conventional market system does not back up "the sustainability of the method and management" of organic agriculture. Among other things you have to pay much attention to the two points as follows.
1.The conventional market system does not always guarantee high value attached to organic produce.
Market prices are set in accordance with the balance between "supply and demand". That means the prices of organic products will go down, as more and more growers become organic and bring in a larger quantity of organic produce to the market. The present high prices simply come from the shortage of the supply.
2."The needs of consumers" are not to be trusted.
Unlimited are "the needs of consumers" who never notice the fact that a wrong way of choosing agricultural items makes the growers operare teir farming in a wrong way. Consumers of this type want their goods to be "free from bug-eatenspecks, similar in size, good-looking, delicious, safe, inexpensive, and this way and that." In addition they want a necessary amount whenever it is needed.
Their devouring pursuit and egotism will make the prices insecure and force unnecessary efforts to refine the items on the suppliers' side. Producers will be inevitably inclined to win the game. And demands for expensive organic products will be unsteady in a prolonged economic depression.
With the conventional market where producers and consumers are completely separated, the sustainability of organic agriculture management cannot but be uncertain. In here "teikei" manifests itself as a very hopeful alternative way.
|5. The organic agriculture movement based on "teikei"|
(1) Basic idea of "teikei"
"If you simply stick to the technical viewpoint that organic agriculture is agriculture managed without the use of chemicals, you will fail to notice many paradoxical problems you face today." (Teruo Ichiraku)
Simply put, the Japanese organic agriculture movement aims to get agriculture the way it should be. Many aspects of Japanese agriculture are deformed; technical systems, management, philosophy, distribution systems, consumption structures, agricultural policies and so on. Ours is a grassroot movement to improve those crooked situations through changing our own way of life and thinking. (See Chart 1)
In other words;
(1) chemical hazards are not merely a matter of techniques,but a symbol of the total malfunction of distribution systems, consumption structures and agricultural policies;
(2) the swollen commercialistic market and food industry intercept the communication between producers and consumers, eventually misleading the both of them;
(3) therefore consumers are also responsible, even if they are unaware of it, for this evil circle;
(4) in order to correct it producers and consumers should build an organically combined relationship between themselves and be involved in the movement, understanding and helping each other. This is what we have always emphasized in directing our movement.
The most characteristic method we have established in our movement is "teikei" (the co-partnership between producers and consumers). You will be surprised to find that it will dynamically change the consumers' ways of life and the producers' ways of management through their interactions by the medium of the products. Needless to say, they have their own creative way of distribution now.
(2) Ways of "teikei"
・ Agriculture ecologically sound and ultimately self-sufficient
The basic function of food is to nurture life and so the basic function of farming is to feed the farmer's own family. To feed your family you have to be self-sufficient. You have to grow different items in an appropriate amount and raise some livestock. The scale of your management should not be so large. It is a sustainable way of farming with your own compost and livestock manure for fertilizer and seeds and livestock feed collected by yourselves. In the "teikei" system consumers (usually urban dwellers) are supposed to be supplied with a surplus amount of producers' crops and products. In a sense they belong to one big family in each case.
Food is not supposed to be sold for a profit. As a matter of course, efficiency is not so important as with the manufacturing industry, and hazardous chemicals are not applied for mass production. The important thing is to draw natural productivity, making an ecological use of organic materials available in the locality for fertilizer. The agriculture should be full of vitality in harmony with nature.
・ Consumers help producers as a farming experience
Such agriculture as is mentioned above takes labor. With the "teikei" system, consumers visit their producers to help on the farms, sharing the labor needed for the converted management. We have named it "en-no". The frequency and quantity of their aid varies depending on the groups. A common merit is to understand better the people on the farm and what agriculture is like through their direct commitment to farming activities.
・ The simplification of selection and packing
In the conventional Japanese market you have to pay much attention to the size and appearance of displayed items and prepare a specified amount of a specified crop. These are the major reasons for the widely-operated application of agricultural chemicals. With the "teikei" system producers have to carry out little selection in distributing their products to their consumers; big or small, with or without mud on them. The packing is much simpler, saving labor.
The delivery is made by themselves, producer or consumer. The producer will know who will eat their produce and the consumer will know who takes care of it. They will be familiarized with each other and get a better understaning of each other's way of life through conversation and working together. "Teikei" stands on the friendly relationship between producers and consumers.
・ Reform in diet
Consumers change their ways of diet and shopping to a great degree. They take, as a rule, all the produce delivered from the farm, disregarding the amount, size and appearance.
They get skilled in choosing recipes to consume all of the produce: our mot to is to eat from root to leaf.
They adjust themselves to the seasonal items. It is not recipes but materials that come first. Whatever crops each season offers in a natural way are truly nutritious and good, so they avoid products artificially grown out of season.
・ How to decide prices
"Producers should be regardful of consumers' diet and health, and consumers are regardful of producers' livelihood."
Prices are set with an agreement on both sides through a direct negotiation. Such prices are in most cases higher than the ones set at the shipment in the conventional market to the producer's satisfaction. On the other hand consumers are delighted with the prices, which are as inexpensive as the ones at grocery stores and at the same time the products are safer and better. Those "teikei"prices are usually set so as to guarantee a moderate sum of living expenses and production costs for producers. In that they are evidently different from the prices at the conventional market born out of the supply-and-demand balance.
Some consumers' groups go to such a remarkable extent that they compensate the decreased income of the producers caused by the conversion of the management; they prepare a farming fund (a loan without any interest at all); they make a contribution to the producers when they are in some financial trouble because of natural disasters, accidents and the like.
In this way consumers take some burden of their producers, who have been brave enough to convert their management to organic; procuders got a relatively steady income, little affected by annual fluctuations in harvest or in market prices. They can obtain a financial security with this "co-existing relationship".
It simultaneously makes the producers devoted to the perfection of the method or sustainable agriculture. The consumers, as a happy result, can enjoy a stable supply of healthy safe organically-grown products.
These previous experiments and experiences were summarized into "The Ten Principles of Teikei" in November, 1978. Our movement has since been developed very much conscious of the"teikei" principles.
THE TEN PRINCIPLES OF "TEIKEI" (A SUMMARY)
To build a friendly and creative relationship, not as mere trading partners.
To produce according to pre-arranged plans on an agreement between the producer(s) and the consumer(s).
To accept all the produce delivered from the producer(s).
To set prices in the spirit of mutual benifits.
To deepen the mutual communication for the mutual respect and trust.
To manage self-distribution, either by the producer(s) or by the consumer(s).
To be democratic in the group activities.
To take much interest in studying issues related to organic a griculture.
To keep the members of each group in an appropriate number.
To go on making a steady progress even if slow toward the final goal of the convinced management of organic agriculture and an ecologically sound life.
|6. Organic agriculture movement for self-reliant and self-sufficient localities|
As you have seen, growers involved in our "teikei" movement try to be as self-sufficient as possible. The management of most of the farmers is complex with livestock and various items of vegetables and fruits. Their farming makes the most of its unique natural environment without disturbing it. In the "teikei" movement the idea of "local self-sufficiency" has been born. It means an independent local unit where much of the food consumed is grown, produced and processed within the area. This idea is closely related to the idea of decentralization, which is still immature in Japan.
It is assumed that there are 500 to 1,000 consumers' groups which are conneceted with organic producers in the "teikei" relationship across the country. The sizes of the groups vary from less than 10 families to more than 5,000. In most of the cases they have their producers in the neighboring localities, the number of whom is sometimes a few and at other times a few score. There are more and more of the co-ops carrying out the "teikei" or the direct distribution system. (There are around 650 co-ops with 16 million members in Japan).
However, it is truth that the teikei movement faces several problems to overcome now that 22 years have passed since the foundation of our association.
On the consumer's side there are such problems as follows: the leaders have grown much advanced in age; the members of the steering committees tend to be fixed; there are fewer housewives who will volunteer to do shares for the group activites because of the increasing opportunites for women to get jobs and take part in social activities; and many of the consumers have begun to hate to take the troublesome procedure to get organic products now that there are several other easier ways to pruchase them.
On the producer's side there are problems as follows: the leading growers have also become older; many of them complain that their sons will not succeed them, though not so frequently as with conventional farmers' families; the quantity of the consumption of their produce is decreasing, as the number of the consuming members has reached its ceiling.
Nevertheless the significance of "teikei" is greater than ever today, for;
・ the independence and self-reliance of a farmer is more important than before,since more and more agricultural produce is imported and agri-business has started to invade;
・ there should be more supporters of the genuine organic farming in order to solve environmental problems and preserve the safety of food;
・ it has become more and more important for consumers to take part in the establishment of a self-reliant food supply system in the organic agriculture movement;
・ the excellence of "teikei" can put agriculture in a higher therefore the proper position in your life and society, which will lead the society to be more sustainable.
Keeping these significant aspects in mind, we must try to find a better way of "teikei" which will be more widely accepted in the scenario of the coming century.
|7. For the days to come|
First of all, it is necessary to compile all the information and experiences collected for the past 22 years and make a close study of them. Technically it is important to try to establish the most appropriate ways of organic agriculture not in Euro-American styles but in a Japanese style, where, as part of Southeast Asia, there is a lot of rain and quite a different climate from the West.
We must also get people in search of alternative ways of life better familiarized with our methods and the accomplishments of the teikei movement.
We are going to deepen the communication and firm up the solidarity between our "teikei" groups; make contact with other civil, environmental conservation, and consumers' movement groups in a more positive manner; exchange knowledge with co-ops and agricultural cooperatives; impress the government, central or municipal, with the signicant of the "teikei" movement between producers and consumers.
Thus we are going to demand that they present policies which will help and promote the sound development of organic agriculture, placing it in the centralposition of Japanese agriculture: while we are going to make known the sustain ability of the method and management of organic agriculture at the grassroot level as well.
We humbly suggest that it be high time for IFOAM to pay more attention to the "teikei" movement like ours with "local self-sufficiency" as a fundamental concept, though we respect its long-term consistent efforts in the establishment and maintenance of the standard-certification system, too.