As the organizers of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics work on ensuring that food provided during the tournament will be safe, the games face a huge shortage of domestic food producers with the necessary food safety certification.
The certification in question is known as "Good agricultural practice," or GAP for short. Ever since the London Olympics and Paralympics in 2012, the provision of GAP-certified food and drink to venues such as the Olympic Village has become increasingly important.
However, the number of producers in Japan who hold GAP certification is extremely low -- partly due to high costs and a lack of knowledge about GAP among consumers. It is thought that less than 1 percent of food producers in Japan hold either the Global GAP or Japanese GAP certification.
This is an issue for producers because the organizing committee for the Tokyo 2020 Games is on the verge of finalizing criteria for food safety during the tournament -- with much of the criteria expected to revolve around GAP certification.
In response to the current shortage of GAP-certified producers in Japan, an official close to the government commented, "If we keep going at this pace, there is a real danger than there won't be enough domestically produced food available during the Games." This would be a great shame because the country has a multitude of wonderful food and drink on offer, such as "wagyu" (Japanese beef) and Japanese tea.
Furthermore, it is expected that about 15 million meals will need to be provided during the 2020 Olympics, so naturally, it will be an excellent opportunity to showcase Japanese food to the rest of the world.
There is a modified version of GAP in Japan -- based on Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (MAFF) guidelines -- but just five of Japan's 47 prefectures, including Shimane and Tokushima, follow it.
A British version of GAP known as "Red Tractor" was introduced prior to the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics. In total, 80 percent of food producers who supplied the tournament in London picked up the Red Tractor certification by 2010. Such a system may well provide inspiration for Japanese farmers.
GAP is an important certification because it helps stop the mixing in of any improper substances during the food production process. For example, under GAP regulations, pesticides must be stored safely in a locked room. Also, any fluorescent lighting close to agricultural produce should be covered accordingly.
However, although GAP certification is undeniably well-intended, farmers wanting to apply must pay an annual registration fee in the region of several thousand yen per year, and depending on the size of the farm, there is a screening fee in the region of 100,000 to 400,000 yen per year. In addition, awareness about GAP is low among distributors and consumers, and the fact that GAP certification would not be accepted as a reason for raising food prices means that there are several hurdles for producers.
The government does plan to provide some financial support in this area, but for the time being, awareness across Japan about GAP certification remains a pressing issue.