Despite scandal, imported rice demand remains high in Japan

TOKYO, Sept. 28 — Demand for imported rice to Japan has been strong, despite tightened rules on auctions following the exposing of a scandal around adjustment money been paid by importers to wholesalers last year.

The first round of the so-called simultaneous buy and sell (SBS) tendering system in fiscal 2017 was held on Sept. 27.

For 25,000 metric tons of rice quota, a total of 24,998 metric tons of imported rice from all origins was successfully bid during the auction. Valid bids were as high as three times in volume.

Japan imports 770,000 metric tons of rice each year under a World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement. The majority goes into government stocks or for feed use.

And up to 100,000 metric tons can be traded in the SBS tendering system.

Domestic prices for table rice in 2017 are expected to remain high as the government is encouraging growers to shift rice to be used for animal feed.

That makes imported rice more attractive to the Japanese foodservice industry, says a trading company official.

“More foodservice operators are using a blend of cheap imports and Japan-grown rice,” he said.

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