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Japan boosts butter imports

Japan boosts butter imports

TOKYO: Japanese cake-lovers can breath a sigh of relief: government officials plan to bolster butter imports by 4,000 tonnes in a bid to avert a nationwide shortage in the run-up to Christmas.

Butter has become an increasingly precious commodity in Japan in recent years, with the product regularly selling out in supermarkets due to a nationwide production shortfall.

Extreme weather conditions such as typhoons and heat waves combined with a steady decline in the number of Japanese dairy farmers has resulted in chronic butter shortages every year since 2013.

Officials at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries announced that butter imports will be increased by 4,000 tonnes, in order to prevent shortages during the coming six months, which includes both Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

This will bring the total amount of imported butter to Japan this fiscal year to a record high of 17,000 tonnes, with an earlier announcement in May having already bolstered the figure by 6,000 tonnes.

Government officials were concerned by the potential impact on domestic butter production following a series of typhoons in northern Japan as well as high temperatures causing ill health among cows in the west, according to Kyodo News reports.

Japan’s decline in the dairy industry has been well documented in recent years, with local media reporting that around 6.45 million tonnes of raw milk was produced in 2015, marking a decrease of 15 per cent from 20 years ago.

In recent years, butter has regularly been absent from supermarket shelves, particularly at during periods of peak demand, such as the run-up to Christmas.

Rationing has also been in place, with some supermarkets putting up signs alerting customers that butter purchases are limited to one pack per shopper, as a result of shortages.

Japan is not the only country to have suffered butter shortages in recent years: the popularity of a high-fat diet in Norway five years ago led to empty supermarket shelves, soaring prices and butter smuggling arrests.