Wednesday, May 14, 2008


We haven't seen real butter in weeks. What the hell is going on here Japan?

Japan running short of butter
By Mari Yamaguchi


Japan has so far escaped the shortages of rice besetting other nations, but it’s running out of a daily staple once associated with foreigners: butter.The Farm Ministry said Thursday it ordered the nation’s four major dairy producers to churn out more butter to counter a 230-ton shortage.The staple—which has grown in popularity in recent decades as more Japanese turn to eating bread—is disappearing fast from store shelves amid production cutbacks and growing demand for domestic butter.Drought in Australia—which pushed up the cost of cattle feed—and bulging demand for butter elsewhere in Asia are making butter imports more expensive, and shoppers are turning to made-in-Japan butter, said Agriculture Ministry official Tsuyoshi Hashimoto.The butter shortage is ironic in Japan, where Western foreigners centuries ago were told they “smelled of butter.”Today, Japanese households—not including bakery chains or other businesses—consume about 13,800 tons of butter a year.The Agriculture Ministry asked Meiji Dairies Corp, Snow Brand Milk Products Co, Yotsuba Inc and Morinaga Milk Industry Co to release inventory and boost production by up to 20% of their monthly average.“We should go ahead and increase the domestic production, and if that’s not enough we will have to consider a next step, such as making emergency imports,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura.Retailers have been running out of butter because of domestic raw milk production cuts by dairy farmers on Japan’s northern Hokkaido, amid flagging milk consumption in recent years. In the past few years, they had to dump thousands of tons of drinking milk.Manufacturers have also allocated more raw milk to fresh cream and milk-based drinks, which can sell at higher prices than butter.Hashimoto said the butter shortage might have escalated because consumers overreacted and rushed to grocery markets to stock up.Officials were hoping the shortage would subside with a planned price hike of the product by 8% to 10% beginning early May.“The bottom line is, however, butter is not our staple food,” Hashimoto said. “Personally, I can happily switch to margarine.”

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