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More young people seek jobs in agricultural corporations

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WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

While family farms are disappearing due to the shortage of successors, large-scale farmers are registering themselves as agricultural corporations and offering more jobs. Rice paddies stretch out in Minami Uonuma city, Niigata prefecture, Japan.

TOKYO >> University students and other young people are showing more interest in careers in agriculture, spurred by a recent increase in agricultural corporations, where even people who are not from farming families can engage in the business while maintaining the feel of working at a regular company.

The question of whether this new type of farmer-cum-company employee will take root is becoming important as more farmers quit work due to their age.

In Tokyo in late March, 47 agricultural corporations participated in one of the nation’s largest job recruitment events in the field of agriculture.

Their information sessions drew about 500 students, who listened intently to farmers discuss such topics as efficient farming techniques that utilize information technology.

“Agriculture has room to be more creative depending on the ideas you have. I want to try a new type of farming,” said Naoki Inahashi, 22, a fourth-year student at Hosei University, who is not from a farming family.

It was the 10th such agricultural job event since the sessions were inaugurated in 2013, according to the event’s secretariat. Initially, as few as about 100 people participated, but the number has been growing in recent years.

Behind the rise in young people seeking to become farmers is the growing popularity of agricultural corporations as a possible employment option.

Teruaki Nanseki, a professor at Kyushu University and an expert on agricultural business management, said, “Becoming a farmer on your own requires the huge expense of obtaining land and machines. In agricultural corporations, however, such costs are unnecessary, training in agricultural techniques is available and incomes are stable.”

The number of agricultural corporations nearly quadrupled from 5,272 in 2000 to 20,800 in 2016, according to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry. Workers at these corporations doubled from 49,369 in 2000 to 104,285 in 2015.

The average age of farmers has exceeded 66. While family farms are disappearing due to the shortage of successors, large-scale farmers are registering themselves as agricultural corporations and offering more jobs.

Agriculture was once seen as a “3-K” workplace, meaning it was “kitsui” (hard), “kitanai” (dirty) and “kakko warui” (uncool). However, changes in farming’s image are underway.

Agricultural corporations have moved ahead with so-called sixth-sector industrialization, in which they engage not only in producing crops, but also in processing and selling them, and even operating restaurants.

Many young people, meanwhile, have come to view agriculture as a creative business, and major supermarket operator Aeon Co. and other firms have entered the agricultural sector.

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