Tokyo, Sept. 10 (Jiji Press)–The Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, or JA-Zenchu, on Thursday revealed plans to suspend until autumn 2021 or later sales of around 200,000 tons of rice harvested in Japan in 2020, in a bid to prevent rice prices from falling.
The nationwide agricultural body explained the plans at a meeting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on the day.
The move comes as rice shipments to the restaurant industry are sluggish amid the coronavirus epidemic.
In the year through June 2020, rice demand dropped 220,000 tons from the previous year, twice the initially estimated amount, due partly to the October 2019 consumption tax hike.
Rice demand is on a long-term downtrend, reflecting the diversification of what people eat in Japan. Annual demand is now estimated at about 7.1 million tons, against estimated production of some 7.3 million tons.
According to JA-Zenchu’s estimates, rice stocks in the private sector are likely to expand from 2.01 million tons in June 2020 to 2.29 million tons in June 2021. The risk of a fall in rice prices is believed to increase if rice stocks exceed 2 million tons.