Japan: A Shift Toward More Rapeseed Crush


Apr 17, 2023 | Agricultural Markets News

Reading time: 2 minutes

Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) reported the Soybean production area for the 2022/23 marketing year (MY: October to September) at 151,400 hectares (ha), a 3.6 percent increase from 146,200 ha in MY 2021/22. FAS/Tokyo forecasts Japan’s MY 2023/24 Soybean harvested area to increase by 2 percent to 155,000 ha as farmers respond to the high price of food-grade Soybeans and switch from growing other legumes or rice.

Based on the November 2022 production and sales estimate by the National Federation of Agricultural Co-operative Associations (Zen-noh), FAS/Tokyo projects Japan’s MY 2022/23 Soybean yield at 1.58 MT/ha and production at 238,400 metric tons (MT). Zen-noh reported a significant decline in MY 2022/23 yield in Tohoku and Kanto areas, which account for approximately 20 percent of domestic Soybean production, due to heavy rains in the summer of 2022. Assuming Japan’s production area increases and yield remains close to the ten-year average of 1.63 MT/ha, FAS/Tokyo forecasts Japan’s MY 2023/24 Soybean production will reach 253,000 MT.

MAFF announced domestic MY 2021/22 Soybean production was 246,500 MT. Based on the 2020 Basic Plan for Food, Agriculture, and Rural Areas (JA2020-0197), MAFF aims to increase Japan’s Soybean production area to 170,000 and Soybean yield to 2.0 MT/ha by 2030. Hokkaido dominates Japan’s Soybean production, with 42.8 percent of the total MY 2021/22 crop coming from the northernmost prefecture. Hokkaido’s Soybean yield is much higher than other prefectures because Hokkaido farmers plant on large dry fields rather than small rice paddies. Small producers outside of Hokkaido sometimes choose high-premium niche varieties, such as kuromame (black Soybeans), which have a lower yield.

Japan’s Soybean production focuses on non-genetically engineered (GE) food-grade Soybean varieties, of which approximately 80 percent are distributed via the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JA) to food manufacturers, such as tofu, natto, or miso makers. The remainder is typically sold for home cooking, directly to small businesses, or used for planting. Domestic production does not contribute to crush. FAS/Tokyo estimates that domestically produced Soybeans supply approximately 30 percent of Japan’s food Soybean market.

Japan has limited Rapeseed production, primarily in Hokkaido, where farmers plant Rapeseed as a rotation crop. MAFF announced that MY 2022/23 Rapeseed area harvested was 1,740 ha, a marginal increase from 1,640 ha in MY 2021/22. MAFF reported MY 2022/23 Rapeseed production at 3,540 MT, a marginal increase from MY 2021/22. FAS/Tokyo forecasts Japan’s MY 2023/24 Rapeseed production area at 2,000 ha and production volume at 4,000 MT.

Japanese Oilseeds Crush

Japan’s vegetable oil demand is the primary driver of oilseed consumption, which is quite stable. Three crushers (Nisshin Oillio, J-Oil Mills, and Showa Sangyo) produce over 80 percent of Japan’s vegetable oil volume, primarily from imported Soybeans and Canola seeds. The crushers adjust the relative proportion of Soybeans to Canola in response to vegetable oil demand and relative crush margins for Soybeans and Rapeseed. According to AgFlow data, Japan imported 119,948 tons of Rapeseeds from Canada in Jan-March 2023, followed by Australia (101,000 tons). During the same period, the country purchased 0.5 million tons of Soybean from the United States, followed by Brazil (153,500 tons). 

A very poor MY 2021/22 Canadian Canola crop led Japanese crushers to increase Soybean procurement. With the expected recovery of the Canola supply, FAS/Tokyo forecasts a shift toward more Canola crushes and away from Soybeans in MY 2022/23. For MY 2022/23, FAS/Tokyo estimates Japan will crush 2.74 million MT (MMT) of Soybeans and 2.00 MMT of Rapeseeds for vegetable oil. This estimate assumes a slight reduction in oil demand due to a steady price increase for vegetable oil since 2021. Considering a steady vegetable oil demand and improved Rapeseed availability, FAS/Tokyo forecasts MY 2023/24 Soybean crush will fall to 2.46 MMT as Rapeseed crush increases to 2.19 MMT.

Other sources: USDA

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