OGATA VILLAGE AKITAKOMACHI RICE PRODUCERS CO., LTD. was founded by a group of rice farmers in Ogata, Akita. Let’s hear the history of rice production battling against the rice reduction policy, and its products for the Islamic market from Takayuki Kato of the Business Development Unit.
Our company started in 1988 by a group of rice farmers in Ogata, a village in Akita prefecture, aiming to deliver the rice we produce directly to consumers across the country.
In the past, the Japanese government bought and managed rice in bulk under the Food Control Law passed during the war. To solve the post-war rice shortage, the government reclaimed Hachiro Lagoon, which was the second largest lake in Japan, in a 20-year construction project. Ogata was formed on that land, where rice farmers began to settle in 1966.
But shortly afterwards, the government started a policy of reducing rice production to curb the excess rice yields. As Ogata used to be a lake, the village could not change to a different crop, such as vegetables, due to poor drainage. Thus, farmers in Ogata united to start selling directly to consumers with direct delivery from the production area.
Although directly shipping farm produce is now common, this method of selling was often called “yami gome” (black-market rice) because it was in violation of government policy back then. With checkpoints set up on bridges leading from villages to the outside areas, farmers had a history of selling rice while fighting against the country.
Times have changed and today we have very friendly relations with the government and the prefecture. We also produce processed products and such made from rice, earning us the endorsement of being a model company in the 6th industrial sector.
Our company centres on rice-processed products to cope with rice surpluses. Apart from general food products (e.g. mochi rice cakes), we develop and market rice-based food products including germinated brown rice, gluten-free and allergy-free food products, emergency food, and fresh rice malt. Among these, we have strengthened our production system for emergency food, producing 300,000 meals per month.
As domestic consumption declines amid the falling birthrate, ageing population and changing dietary habits, we have expanded into overseas markets and began exports in 2016. Upon expanding overseas, we wanted to ensure Muslims–a growing proportion of the global population–could safely enjoy our products, so we obtained Halal certification for 4 types of our rice-based gluten-free pasta, fresh rice malt, and Akita Komachi, the brand-name rice harvested in the village.
We have been promoting our products at exhibitions and others, looking into expanding our exports further in the future.
The Fresh Rice Malt is what we would like to recommend to Muslims, a drink known as a ‘drinking IV drip’, which is also gaining attention for its beauty benefits.
This highly nutritious drink is preservative-free, made from rice malt ‘Ame Koji’ developed in Akita and water only, with added lactic acid bacteria to the existing product. It has that sweet-sour taste favoured in hot countries. Although it has no sugar or sweeteners, you can taste an ample dose of sweetness.
Our products are designed to ensure that everyone can eat the same delicious and safe food. We manufacture them at a dedicated factory without taking in shellfish or any of the 28 specified ingredients of food allergens (e.g. wheat, egg).
We are also engaged in private brand (PB) products for major general supermarkets. Our allergy-friendly products boast one of the highest shipment quantities in Japan.
Allergy support is a life-threatening affair. To prevent unintentional food ingredient contamination, we pay close attention in our product manufacturing by strictly checking all secondary and tertiary ingredients.
For Halal products, we have a thorough system in place, conducting even stricter inspections alongside allergy checks.
As pork is one of the listed specified ingredients of food allergens, our factory originally never used it. So, we had no problems with the ingredient selection when acquiring Halal certification.
Since many ingredients cannot be used, we do struggle when it comes to things like seasoning. For instance, with pasta, we finally managed to perfect the pasta after nearly 800 prototypes.
Around autumn, our anticipated new product, Halal gluten-free noodles made from rice, should be completed.
After exporting in 2016, we have participated in international exhibitions every year until before the Covid-19 pandemic. We currently export to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, China, the USA, Australia and Switzerland.
In the future, we plan to concentrate on the Muslim world by venturing into Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Middle East and more.
< Company Profile >
Company name: OGATA VILLAGE AKITAKOMACHI RICE PRODUCERS CO., LTD.
Head office: 4-88 Nishi Ogata-mura, Minamiakita-gun, Akita 010-0492
Business outline: Rice production, processing, marketing
Official HP: OGATA VILLAGE AKITAKOMACHI RICE PRODUCERS CO., LTD.
Online shop: OGATA VILLAGE AKITAKOMACHI RICE PRODUCERS CO., LTD. Online Shop
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