At the UN climate change conference COP 25 last year, Japan was cited as the country most affected by extreme weather in 2018. Strong typhoons and torrential rains hit one after another, taking lives, destroying homes and inflicting business losses throughout the archipelago. Japanese companies are now stepping up preparedness to limit future losses.
In 2016, three tropical storms blew through Hokkaido in northern Japan in just one week. It was the first time this had happened since record-keeping began. Potato crops in the prefecture were badly damaged. Calbee Potato in Hokkaido stores potatoes for sale to producers of more than 100 food items, including chips. The potato shortage caused by the storms meant 33 products had to be discontinued or production suspended. The episode became known as "the potato shock."
Learning from this, the company has taken steps to ensure more stable procurement. It had previously sourced potatoes from limited areas in Hokkaido. It has since expanded sources and is also working on developing hardier potato varieties.
"Global warming not only means higher temperatures, but also more rain, and that means fewer hours of sunlight," says Hiroyuki Uemura, managing executive officer of Calbee Potato. "We want to do more of this kind of research and development in cultivation."
Torrential rains have pounded through Hiroshima Prefecture in western Japan in recent years. A gas station in the prefecture has solar panels on the roof to cope with power outages. It also has a fuel-powered generator in the event that solar power is not available, and a water storage tank in case the water supply is cut.
The same modifications have been made at other gas stations in the chain. One of the stations was able to continue to do business during power and water cuts resulting from heavy rains in 2018.
Preparing for the next disaster
Japan's Meteorological Agency says the country last year was hit with nearly double the usual number of typhoons. One expert says anti-disaster measures are becoming essential, as typhoons, rain and other natural phenomena increase in severity. Many businesses across Japan have been busy preparing for the next disaster. This work increases the costs and challenges of doing business in an era of devastating weather events that are more frequent than before.