28 April 1998
Japan increases rice imports

JAPAN is set to increase the amount of imported rice for domestic consumption to 8% by the year 2000 – doubling the amount imported in 1995.

Further liberalisation of the market is expected by the turn of the century following World Trade Organisation negotiations.

Although foreign rice makes up as much as 15% of Japanese rice stocks – Japanese consumers have apparently not embraced foreign rice with the same enthusiasm as Danish pork or Californian oranges.

The bulk of last years 511,000 tonnes of imports – 310,000 tonnes to be precise – was left in Japanese inventories, used in processed foods, sent overseas as food aid or put into warehouses as stockpiles for emergencies. Just 30,000 tonnes was released on the domestic market for consumption in its pure state.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries puts this down to poor market demand. It claims Japanese prefer domestic rice.

But the Financial Times says there are other forces at work who do not want people to develop a preference for the foreign product. A Government-controlled import system makes it difficult for retailers to offer steady supplies, even if they wanted to.

The USA Rice Federation said it was confident that high-Quality US rice was winning acceptance among Japanese consumers.

  • Financial Times 28/04/98 page 9