Throughout the country the amount of butter decreased between April and August by about 20% compared to the same time period last year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (MAFF).
The problem started last year when the extreme summer heat caused breeding problems in cows, which led to a reduction in raw milk production used in making butter. The Fukushima nuclear crisis followed, leading to a large quantity of radiation-contaminated raw milk. Because the dairy industry was focused on acquiring milk and other products, fabricated foods like butter were left behind on the non-priority list.
Some stores in the Nagano prefecture haven’t received enough butter. The Cope supermarkets in the prefecture said that they received 30% less butter from the manufacturer compared to last year.
“We even had days in September when the shelves in the dairy section were empty of butter,” noted a supermarket clerk.
Higher demand for butter is on the horizon because preparation is needed for the Christmas cakes and sweets, and the local shops and food processing vendors in those areas are getting nervous.
In response to the problem, the government has decided to import butter from Europe and the United States for industrial use in August. The aim is to have imported butter distributed this month.
“If the products that need raw milk can use imported milk, then the shortage will not affect Christmas products like cakes and other foods,” said a representative the Milk and Dairy Products Division of MAFF.