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Japan to urge China to lift ban on import of Japanese rice
(Kyodo) _ Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to urge China to lift its ban on imports of Japanese rice during a Japan-China summit later this month, sources close to the matter said Tuesday.

The meeting of the leaders of the two nations is expected to be held in the Philippines on the sidelines of the Dec. 13 East Asia Summit which brings together leaders from the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus Japan, China, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia and India. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is expected to participate in the gathering.

China is expected to respond positively to Japan's request -- a move that will give a boost to the Japanese government's plan to boost exports of agricultural products.

On the back of China's strong economic growth, Japanese dishes such as sushi are becoming increasingly popular among wealthy Chinese. Industry analysts say that exports of Japanese brand rice such as Koshihikari and Akitakomachi may begin once the import ban is lifted.

According to agriculture ministry officials, the two nations have been in the final stages of an agreement for China to resume rice imports since senior working-level negotiations in October.

At the October talks, Vice Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshio Kobayashi requested his counterparts to reopen the Chinese rice market at an early date. Given improved relations between the two countries, Japanese government sources said that China is expected to show willingness to accept Japan's request at the upcoming bilateral summit.

China had been importing rice from Japan but stopped in early 2003 when it found bugs originating in Japan in rice imported from the country.

Even before the import suspension, the annual volume of China's imports of Japanese rice was limited at several tons.

Once the import ban is lifted, retail prices for Japanese rice are expected to be more than 10 times those of domestically produced rice, but farm ministry officials expect imports of Japanese rice will increase substantially.

The Japanese government aims to triple the nation's export of agricultural and fishery products from the current level to 1 trillion yen by 2013.
MGR Archive 6.12.2006
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