The bid price for imported rice hit a five-year high. In the tender that the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) offered on Nov. 29, the resale price of U.S. rice to the private sector jumped 8% on the year to 206 yen per kilogram. The rice acreage program, which has been in place for some time, and the bad weather this summer affected the yield of domestic rice in 2017. The price of domestic rice keeps going up due to insufficient supply. In particular, there are cases where domestic rice used by restaurant operators and premade meal vendors is traded at a price 20% higher than a year earlier. This is pushing up demand for imported rice.
Of imported rice that MAFF auctioned, 60% was from the U.S. The “Calrose” medium-grain brand rice produced in the U.S. state of California was in higher demand. The USA Rice Federation (Japanese representative office in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward) is broadening its sales pitch as it anticipates rice shortages in the Japanese market. For example, it demonstrates dishes using Calrose to Japanese restaurants. Japan planned to set an additional import quota of U.S. rice under the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact, from which the U.S. withdrew. The U.S. industry body expects that opportunities for exporting U.S. rice to the Japanese market will grow again once Japan and the U.S. sign a new trade deal.
Meanwhile, Australia is also promoting the sale of its rice to the Japanese market in partnership with Japanese rice wholesalers. Australian rice accounted for 30% of the imported rice auctioned this time. (Abridged)