The new Democratic Party of Japan plans to slash food imports under a 1 trillion yen (US$10.8 billion) policy to help local farmers, Bloomberg reported. The allocation of funds will begin in 2011.

The nation, which sources about 60% of its wheat shipments and 74% of its soybean imports from the U.S., aims to reach 50% self-sufficiency by 2019.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Japan imported 59% of its food in the year ended March 31. This is the highest rate of imports among developed countries.

The DPJ also plans to promote rice production as an alternative to foreign wheat in flour milling, replacing 5 million metric tons of yearly imports with domestic output. Charlie Utsunomiya, director at the Tokyo office of U.S. Wheat Associates, however, feels that is not a realistic idea.

“Japanese farmers cannot produce crops that satisfy needs from local flour millers in terms of quality and quantity,” he said.