Year-end inventory of rice
In the final week of December, we stayed at a Japanese-style inn at a village called Ohtori, Tsuruoka City in Yamagata prefecture. There is still a traditional Matagi, which means ancient hunters of the Tohoku mountains living in the village of Ohtori. It snowed heavily the first time this year on the day we arrived. The inn is usually quiet in this season and because we were the only guests staying at the time, we were welcomed warmly. Early next morning before sunrise, we were awaken by the sound of a snowplow, scraping and removing lumps of snow on the road. We washed our faces with cold water, removed the snow from our rental car, had a good breakfast then headed toward the farmer about a 40 minute drive to do rice inventory which was the main purpose of this trip.
“30 bags of organically grown rice Tsuya-hime, and 40 bags of special rice Sasa-nishiki (specially grown with the use of minimal chemical fertilizers and pesticides).”
We counted the stocks of rice one by one in the backyard under the guidance of the representative’s son. I wanted to give the representative a year end greeting but I couldn’t get the chance because he was out of the farmhouse as I had already expected.
I called him on his mobile phone, he said he had been working hard staying up all night but could not finish his work so I figured he would not be around. He bought a wasteland not far from his farm house and along Mt. Gassan in the past and he is working hard to prepare the land for farming. He runs a heavy machine and is removing old woody roots in the land, in the thick snow, all by himself. This takes a long time so it was highly unlikely that he would be back to the farm house today.
A staff told me that he had been away for 3 days and nights working so I gave up on greeting him and asked his son to take the year end gifts to him and I returned to Tokyo. Fortunately, thanks to his son and his reliable staff, we finished the inventory without any delays. The other day, I got a message on my smartphone from the representative, saying that a farmer must do their task alone, operate heavy machines, take all measures and must finish numerous tasks which a hundred people accomplish. He said he wanted to plant potatoes through organic farming and it was a powerful message, I sent him my support and encouragement through my smartphone to end this year’s work.
Pricing is a measure for coexistence
From the viewpoint of the representative, he is confident that he knows the stock of rice without counting it every single time. He has no doubt that cultivating the farm before the New Year for the potato plantation next spring is more important than the inventory of rice at the end of the year. When he doesn’t make a profit, he expands his farm until he makes a profit. He believes it is the only way of running the business and it is his nature. I understand it partly and I often see many entrepreneurs, not only in agriculture but also in other business domains who have a similar style with the representative.
But I think the significance of accounting is somewhat different in agriculture than in the general industry. Everyone needs food, so a person who grows agricultural product is the greatest. In ancient times, people thought this way as well. They further believed that a person who had food was the strongest, even if he acquired it through violence. History went ahead in this way and many unhappy stories unfolded unfortunately.
Nowadays, people don’t use violence ostensibly to get food but instead use money. A person who buys food with money is the greatest and this seems to be the trend.
We cannot survive without food, we are weak against people who have food. We must avoid being dominated by people who use food to take control, we all have to take part in some role of growing agricultural products. In a broad sense, we have to think about standing by the farmers’ side and I think about this whenever I visit Shonai region.
On the other hand, even farmers cannot go without the help of consumers or the public. Therefore, he should not overprice his crops and he should not sacrifice himself for everyone by selling it too cheap. I hope the representative understands the importance of pricing from this viewpoint and the significance of accounting in pricing appropriately.
In agriculture, pricing is a measure for coexistence.
Fostering understanding on this issue and agreeing on the importance of accounting and pricing is the issue for next year.
I’ve read a novel about a young Matagi struggling in life and I remembered a saying that when the army needed a lot of fur for their outfit to protect themselves from the cold, and merchants had to supply the fur, the prices increased dramatically and greedy people including hunters went into the mountains hunting wild animals to get their fur. They destroyed the balance of nature and changed the Matagi’s traditional life.
Price has a significant influence and we must constantly strive to set them appropriately to ensure that agricultural products are available to as many people as possible and for a longer period of time.