TOKYO, July 24 — Japan is recently exporting more high-yield rice varieties as Japanese-grown rice is increasingly accepted abroad.
Rice dealers hope to expand sales channels further with a lineup of reasonably-priced products.
Some prefectures are developing new varieties targeting overseas consumers while others are seeking to create added values by exploring agriculture with lower environmental load.
Japan’s rice exports are expanding steadily, with shipments in the January-May period rising 30 percent from the same period last year to roughly 13,000 tons.
The figure is close to the volume of exports marked in the whole of 2018, reflecting the growing popularity of Japanese-grown rice in foreign countries.
Rice growing areas are considering introducing high-yield varieties in addition to existing ones.
In Ibaraki Prefecture, the Ibaraki rice export promotion council made up of local farmers has already been exporting the high-yield variety Niji no Kirameki since 2021.
According to the Ibaraki Prefectural Government, the average yield per are of Niji no Kirameki in the prefecture is around 60 to 120 kilograms more than that of the popular variety Koshihikari.
An official at the prefectural government’s agriculture promotion division said, “The introduction of a high-yield variety is aimed at reducing the production costs per kg, thereby increasing net income.”
Niigata Prefecture, the major rice producing region, began testing this year cultivation of high-yield varieties with consideration for environmental load as part of moves to seek new consumer needs overseas.
In an effort to look into the possibility of boosting exports with rice which can be priced reasonably, Niigata is trying direct seeding of high-yielding cultivars Yumiazusa and Niji no Kirameki.
Hokkaido, which has expanded exports mainly with the Nanatsuboshi variety, is focusing on Kuiku 195, a candidate high-yield rice variety developed there, to offer products in a wide price range.
The prefecture will conduct trial cultivation at 45 locations this year, with a view to develop the variety also as wholesale rice to be sold within Japan.
An official of the raw materials division at Hokuren Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives in Hokkaido said, “In order to respond to needs for different prices, it is necessary to expand the range of varieties.”
Meanwhile, Fukui Prefecture is developing its own high-yielding variety for overseas markets.
In 2022, Fukui’s agricultural experiment station applied for registration of Shine Pearl, a rice variety developed for export purposes, and made the first shipment to Singapore that year.
It tastes like Koshihikari but its yield is 23 percent higher.
According to the agricultural experiment station, it is common for people in Hong Kong and Singapore not to have rice cookers as they buy cooked rice to take home.
Fukui will target users of reasonably-priced wholesale rice by promoting the variety’s characteristics of remaining soft even after it gets cold or is reheated.
According to JA Fukuiken, a local farm coop, Shine Pearl was planted on a 25-hectare land this year.
The first training session for rice farmers was held in the prefecture in July.
An official at the prefectural government’s agricultural business planning division said, “We hope to increase sustainability of the growing region by making recommendations for planting according to demands.”