With customers and businesses across the world dealing with supply chain issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan has repeatedly hit the headlines: for a global microchip shortage that continues to plague auto giants including Toyota, a potato shortage forcing McDonald's to ration fries in the country and now over its top officials practically begging the public to… drink milk.
As per Bloomberg, no less than the Japanese prime minister made the request on Tuesday. “We’d like the population to cooperate in drinking an extra cup of milk than you’d normally do and make use of milk products when cooking,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at a news conference.
As per the report, Japanese farm minister Genjiro Kaneko and Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike both also drank a cup of milk ostensibly to set a good example for the public), at news conferences on 17 December.
Confused? Let’s examine why this is happening:
What’s the issue?
As per Nippon.com, a temporary oversupply has stoked fears that large amount of milk will go to waste during the year-end and New Year holiday period.
How much milk are we talking?
The Japanese government estimates that as much as 5,000 tonnes of raw milk could be discarded by the end of 2021.
Why is this happening?
The Japanese dairy industry has strengthened its production capacity since the butter shortage that hit the country around 2014, while it saw the amount of milk grow this summer as cool weather provided a good environment for dairy cows to grow, as per Nippon.com.
So while supply is up, demand is down. For the oh-so-familiar reason: COVID-19.
As per NBCnews.com, the Japan Dairy Association cited the continuing spread of COVID-19 as taking a toll on demand for milk, which is often given out to school students in a carton.
Hiroshi Ohashi, an economics professor from the University of Tokyo, told NBCnews.com: “(The oversupply of milk) is because of low domestic demand for milk, in which big consumers such as schools and restaurants have not been able to provide fresh meals, including milk, for long,” said Ohashi. “A large-scale shift to virtual learning brought about by the pandemic has reduced the necessity for schools to purchase milk in bulk as part of its school lunch program.”
So, what’s being done?
In addition to public officials asking for public help, industry giants are pulling out all the stops. As per WION, convenience chain Lawson’s is offering a staggering 50 percent discount on a cup of hot milk on 31 December and 1 January. Meanwhile, Meiji Holdings Company, a dairy industry giant has gone the celebrity route by luring in Saori Yoshida, an Olympic wrestling champion as well as running a campaign to increase milk consumption.