Japan is running out of butter. Shortages are so severe that some shops are almost always out: At a Tokyo supermarket, butter arrives once a week and sells out on the same day. Retail butter prices are expected to increase up to 10 percent just between April and May. The situation is particularly confusing because Japan historically has had an overproducing dairy industry. As the London Times reports:

Just two years ago, Japan’s spring milk glut was so embarrassing that 1,000 tonnes were poured down the drain and farmers were forced to stand outside railway stations in Hokkaido handing out free cartons to passers-by.

Some dairies looked into ways to convert milk into burnable natural gas, there was simply so much of the white stuff.

Not anymore: “Australian milk imports have fallen because of the country’s three-year drought and feed is much more expensive because grain prices have soared across the world.” Add to that increasing competition for dairy supplies from China. And even if Japanese dairy farmers wanted to up production immediately, they couldn’t: They need more moo cows.

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