TOKYO, JAPAN — Japan’s soybean production in 2018 declined by 15.8% due to a cold and rainy summer, leading to an increase in demand for soybean imports in 2018-19, according to an April 2 Global Agricultural Information Network report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Production is forecast to fall to 213,000 tonnes in 2018-19 from 253,000 tonnes in 2017-18. Meanwhile, imports are projected to increase to 3.32 million tonnes from 3.25 million tonnes, the USDA said.

Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) forecasts a 2.4 decrease in soybean planted hectares in 2018-19 from the previous year. The decline is attributed to increased planting of other rotation crops, such as adzuki beans and common beans.

Low soybean prices and a decline in world rapeseed prices in 2018 helped Japan’s three largest oilseed crushers maintain production despite rising labor and transportation costs, according to the USDA.

“Japanese vegetable oil production grew modestly from 2013 to 2017,” the USDA said. “However, production slowed in early 2018, in part due to a 4% price hike for vegetable oil that the Big Three oil crushers negotiated with larger buyers in response to higher labor and production costs.”