Japan to monitor foreign ownership of farmland for security

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TOKYO: The Japanese government will ask foreign owners and buyers of farmland to register their nationalities, amending regulations related to the agricultural law, in an effort to address economic and national security concerns, Nikkei has learned.

 

The amended regulations will take effect Sept. 1. The nationality of the owner will be not only be stated in the farmland registry but also required on documents when applying for permission to buy new farmland.

 

The government plans to modify the farmland registry system and link it to the basic resident registry. Foreign nationals who already own farmland will have to register their nationality on the farmland registry. Under the new system, authorities may also periodically release statistics on the percentage of farmland held by foreign owners by country or region.

 

Corporations that own farmland will also have to specify their nationality when reporting their ownership status to the authorities every year.

 

In addition to their nationality, individuals will have to disclose their status of residence, while corporations will have to disclose the nationalities of their principal shareholders.

 

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries annually compiles information on farmland purchases. The scope of the survey had previously been limited to foreign corporations, or people believed to be foreigners living abroad, making it difficult to trace information on land acquired by foreigners in the past.

 

This year, the ministry published for the first time the results of a survey on acquisitions of farmland by people likely to be foreigners who live in Japan. In 2022, an estimated 140 hectares was purchased by such buyers.

 

The Japanese government has become increasingly concerned about foreign purchases of land since it was revealed in February that a Chinese company had bought about half the land on uninhabited Yanaha Island, which is part of Okinawa prefecture. The recent depreciation of the yen has led to an increase in the number of foreign investors purchasing land in Japan.

 

In 2021, a law was enacted to regulate land use near Self-Defense Force bases, nuclear power plants and on remote islands. Monitoring of agricultural land will be likewise strengthened, as it affects the country’s food and economic security, a vital issue for Japan.

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