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disappearing japanese tea farmers

The mysterious disappearing Japanese tea farmer

I am currently prepping a business plan to take to investors. We hope that the infusion of capital will allow us to expand and increase the quality of service to our customers.

Some of the data that I am looking at is fascinating…as in cause for worry.

In 1985, there were 202,673 tea farms according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. In 2015, there were 20,144 tea farmers.

That’s an 90% decline in the number of tea farms.

YEAR 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015
# of tea farmers 196,923 202,673 109,020 93,544 53,687 37,617 28,116 20,144

disappearing japanese tea farmers

Reasons for this decline are attributed to an aging population, a lack of successors, and a decrease in average income per acre (perhaps due the introduction and popularity of bottled teas).

The 1985-1990 decline is perhaps due to the land bubble in Japan. This is speculation, but perhaps aging farmers sold off their land and stopped farming.

The good news is that the amount of tea leaves produced has not changed much. 95,500 tons in 1985, 100,000 tons in 2000, and 82,100 tons in 2012. Improvements in equipment have helped increase production yield.

So we will likely be able to continue supplying Japanese for a few years…but for the tea agriculture industry in Japan to have a bright future, we believe overseas markets for Japanese tea need to be developed further.

Japanese Source: 「茶をめぐる情勢」農林水産省, 2015.01, http://www.maff.go.jp/j/seisan/tokusan/cha/pdf/meguji.pdf

Ian Chun

Ian is the co-founder and CEO of Matcha Latte Media, the parent company of the Yunomi brand.

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