After their respective returns to prominent power in early 2010s, both Prime Minister Abe Shinzo of Japan and President Vladimir Putin of Russia realized that the lack of a diplomatic breakthrough in Russo-Japanese relations put Russia and Japan at a disadvantage. Cooperation between the two states would satisfy Putin’s advocacy for multilateralism and Abe’s hope for a more independent and robust Asian policy. In addition, after the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011, Russia appeared as an energy supplier to satisfy Japan’s growing fossil fuel demands. As a result, Abe and Putin initiated efforts to improve Japan-Russia economic relations.
Agriculture has also emerged as a new area of Japan-Russia cooperation. Hokkaido, the food basket of Japan, takes the lead in this process. The geographical closeness and similar climate make Hokkaido and the Russian Far East natural partners in agricultural development. Hokkaido provides technologies for cold climates, such as greenhouse agriculture, small smokeless incinerators, and vegetables that are well-adapted to a cold environment. A joint Hokkaido-Sakha project started in 2015 built a 30,000-square-meter greenhouse farm with Japanese technologies. In exchange, Russia exports cheap crops to Hokkaido for livestock feed.
After Hokkaido’s initial success, the Japanese government developed a comprehensive agricultural investment project in the Russian Far East. First, this project aims to improve agricultural productivity in Russia by adopting Japanese agricultural machinery, fertilizers, agrochemicals, and food processing technologies. The increasing yield will expand the export potential of soy, corn, wheat, rapeseed, forage grasses, livestock products, wild berries, and processed products to Japan. Second, this project invests in improving existing greenhouses and building new greenhouses for year-round cultivation of fresh and safe vegetables by using Japanese technologies. It also promotes the growth and production of outdoor vegetables using technologies and know-hows from Japanese private companies. Third, the project aims to increase the production and value-added processing of seafood products by using Japanese processing, preservation, and packaging technologies.
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