The farm population has declined in recent years. The importance of agriculture, however, has not decreased. More than 40 per cent of the cultivated land is devoted to rice production, which in the mid-1990s represented about one-third of the total crop income. Rice remains the staple of the Japanese diet; alterations in the national diet, however, and development of better yielding strains of rice have brought about significant overproduction. Wheat and barley are other important grain crops. In 2006 annual production in tonnes included rice, 10.7 million; potatoes, 2.60 million; sugar beet, 4 million; sugar cane, 1.25 million; mandarin oranges, 1 million (1995); cabbage, 2.6 million (1995); sweet potatoes, 1 million; onions, 1.2 million (1995); and cucumbers, 866,000 (1995). Other crops include melons, tomatoes, apples, wheat, soya beans, tea, tobacco, and other fruits and vegetables.
Because arable land is scarce and consequently valuable, relatively little acreage is used for livestock. Nevertheless, Japan in 2006 had 9.62 million pigs, 4.39 million cattle, and 281 million poultry birds. The arable land is divided into small farms and almost 70 per cent of this land consists of farms of 1 hectare (2.5 acres) or less. Most farmers also work part-time in industry. The land is tilled intensively; almost all farms have electricity and most use modern machinery. Japanese farmers frequently raise two or more crops yearly. Much of the land suffers from soil exhaustion. Heavy use of chemical fertilizers, improved strains, and advanced techniques, however, have made Japanese farms among the most productive in the world.
About 65.8 per cent of the total land area of Japan is woodland, some two-fifths of which contains softwoods. Approximately two thirds of the forest area is privately owned.
Although Japan ranks high in world production of timber, the steadily increasing domestic demand for timber compels the country to import much of its needs. Roundwood production in 2006 was about 16.7 million cu m (590 million cu ft). Fish is a food staple for the Japanese and is second in importance only to rice. Consequently, fishing is one of the most important industries, both for the domestic and export markets. The Japanese fishing fleet is one of the world’s largest. The industry may be divided into three principal categories: offshore, coastal, and deep-sea fishing. Offshore fishing from medium-sized boats accounts for a substantial amount of the total catch, but only about one-quarter of the total value of production.
Deep-sea fishing by large vessels that operate in international fishing grounds brings in a catch about equal to that of offshore fishing, while coastal fishing, either by small boats, set nets, or breeding techniques, represents almost half of the industry’s total production. In 2005 the annual catch totalled some 5.43 million tonnes and included sardines, bonito, crab, pike, prawn, salmon, pollack, mackerel, squid, clams, saury, sea bream, scallops, tuna, and yellowtail. In addition, Japan is among the world’s few remaining whaling countries, and large amounts of seaweed and other marine plants are harvested. "Japan" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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