Hokkaido is known for its beautiful scenery and delicious foods. The Tokachi region (expanding across eastern Hokkaido with Obihiro City at its center; its population approximately 350,000) in particular is said to be one of Japan’s foremost food production bases. This is due to the fact that its food self sufficiency rate is approximately 1100%. When compared to Japan at 40%, Hokkaido at 195%, Holland at 78%, the U.S. at 120%, and Australia at 172%, it is easy to see how extraordinary this figure is. The expansive and resource-rich Tokachi Plain is what supports this sufficiency. The Tokachi region spreads over 10,831 square kilometers of land, 24% or 2600 square kilometers of which is used as farmland. The temperature difference between the summer and winter can reach up to 60 degrees, and the region has an incredible natural environment with beautiful seasonal transformations.
The Resources and Weather that Create a “Food Country”
Hokkaido in the winter brings snow to mind, but the Tokachi region has over 2,000 hours of sunshine a year, which is one of the longest in the nation. It is cold during the middle of winter, but sees many sunny days which locals refer to as “Tokachi sunshine.” It is a truly feel-good atmosphere. This type of climate is considered the foundation of a “food country”.
The key industries that give Tokachi a firm standing are large-scale farming and dairy and livestock. Dry-field crops include wheat, potatoes, beans, and beets, and several major manufacturers have processing factories there. In terms of dairy farming and livestock, they have over 400,000 cows, allowing production of meats and dairy products to thrive. Dairy industry makers consider the location a base for the manufacture of dairy products such as cheese and milk, and have large-scale factories there.
However, they do have challenges. Tokachi’s resources are not being fully utilized, and this has been an issue for several years. Compared to the national added value rate, Tokachi’s added value rate is low.
Promotion of “Food Valley” to Increase Added Value
In order to provide added value to crops and stimulate the industry, Obihiro mayor Norihisa Yonezawa established the “Food Valley Tokachi” philosophy in 2010. In December of 2011, Hokkaido regions Sapporo, Hakodate, and Tokachi received the title of International Strategic Comprehensive Special Zone (Special Food Zone). Through efforts to improve food self-sufficiency and increase food exports, they are expected to aim to become the base for strengthening their international competitive power.
Obihiro Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Takahashi attends the signing ceremony for a joint business with Malaysia.