A group of Japanese farm owners is inviting farmers from the Philippines to work in Japan, promising attractive compensation to mostly impoverished land tillers in the agriculture-based Southeast Asian country and help prop up Japan’s technologically-advanced farming sector now being threatened due to an aging population of farmers.
Filipino farmers are offered upwards to 100,000 yen (P48,000) as net monthly salaries by working as farmhands in agriculture-rich rural Japan, with free-living and other accommodations given by employer-farm owners as additional incentives, said Sandra Moriso, a Filipino-Japanese who has been living in Japan for 22 years now.
“They are in need of young farmworkers as their farming population is aging,” said Moriso.
Rapid industrialization after rising from the rubbles of World War II brought unprecedented growth to Japan, with technology-based methods pervading even into the traditionally labor-intensive farming sector, causing a growth in productivity.
Japan’s farming sector, however, suffered as much well-educated youth of later generations opted to corporate and blue-collar jobs in Tokyo, Nagoya and other megacities of the island-nation, instead of becoming farmers.
Moriso said Japanese have known Filipino farmers as hardworking even with limited and oftentimes obsolete farming technologies.
The compensation offer of the Japanese to the Filipinos is significantly higher and even surpasses the monthly salaries of mid-level executives in a country where there are still people who survive with below 2 dollars (P100) as daily income.
“Our farmers are in demand in Japan,” said Moriso, who on Sept. 21 toured with a group of farm owners and members of an agriculture cooperative in eastern Japan’s Iwate Prefecture to Yamang Bukid Farm, an emerging farm tourism destination here.
At least 208 Filipinos are known to work in farms under the Agriculture Cooperative Society in Iwate alone, said Moriso.
“They usually work in three-year contracts although they may extend it up to ten years, depending on their agreement with the farm owner,” said Moriso. “What they earn there is certainly way, way many times over than what they could have gotten as workers here.”
The Japanese flew in from Manila and motored to Barangay Bacungan, a 30-minute drive from the city proper, to visit the 20-plus hectare Yamang Bukid Farm.
They were enamored by the beautiful and fresh music and enjoyed the sights around the sprawling farm tourism site, which recently has been accredited by the governments’ Department of Agriculture—Agriculture Training Institute (DA-ATI) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).
“This place is so beautiful. The plants and the rolling hills are beautiful,” Takeshi Sasaki, chief executive officer of a vegetable farm in Iwate, said through an interpreter.
The Japanese also enjoyed interacting with some of Yamang Bukid Farm’s farmer-workers and dined on local dishes.
As a token of gratitude, the visitors gave a box of unagi pie—a sweet delicacy from Iwate—to the farm officials. As a return gesture, the Filipinos also handed jars of Yamang Bukid turmeric 10-in-1 Tea, a turmeric-based hot beverage manufactured by the farm’s parent company, Yamang Bukid Healthy Products Inc. (YBHPI).
“Thank you for dropping by the farm and listening to some of the stories of our farmers,” said Bro. George Maria, Yamang Bukid Farm’s vice president for community relations, himself a farmer.
Maria said the Japanese farm owners’ offer is generous to the Filipinos, particularly now that local farmers are suffering due to cheap prices of their produce.
“We are with you in helping our respective farmers. We employ nearly 300 farmers, most of them former illegal loggers and slash-and-burn practitioners. We give them dignified salaries and a shot at redeeming themselves from their former reputation as nature destroyers,” Maria told the Japanese.