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Sri Lanka seeks up to 200,000 T rice from Japan
TOKYO, June 3 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka has asked Japan whether it can buy up to 200,000 tonnes of rice which Tokyo has to import under a world trade agreement scheme, Japanese government officials said on Tuesday.

The request came after Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda told world leaders at a U.N. food security summit in Rome on Tuesday that Japan would release at least 300,000 tonnes of imported rice from storage onto the world market to help ease a global food crisis. [ID:nL03756595]

Japan's government has stored 1.52 million tonnes of foreign rice.

U.S. and Japanese officials agreed in a meeting in Washington late last month that quick action was needed to address global hunger and bring stability to the world rice market. [ID:nN23299126]

Given that about half of the compulsory imports are from the United States, the agreement has paved the way for Tokyo to use the rice to meet obligations under multilateral trade agreements while protecting Japanese farmers by imposing high tariffs on commercial rice imports.

The Philippines, the world's biggest rice importer, has asked Japan for 200,000 tonnes of rice Tokyo imports through a so-called minimum access system, the first such request since a surge in world rice prices this year fuelled by export restrictions by some major producers.

"Sri Lanka's government has made an inquiry concerning its possible purchase of rice Japan imports within the minimum access window," a Japanese foreign ministry official said, who declined to comment on the volume of Colombo's request.


The foreign ministry official said in a telephone interview with Reuters that the ministry is considering volume, timing and other details to meet Sri Lanka's request.

Whether it will be a commercial sale or grant in aid is another issue to consider, the official said.

Another government source said the purchasing volume suggested by Sri Lanka ranged from 50,000 to 200,000 tonnes.

Separately, another foreign ministry official said the ministry has decided to sell to the Philippines 200,000 tonnes of rice in response to a request from Manila.

Price, timing and other shipment details are now under consideration, the second foreign ministry official said.

As of the end of March, Japan held some 1.3 million tonnes of such imported rice, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

A little more than a third of past imports of the medium- to long-grain rice was processed into food, followed by shipment overseas as aid and domestic sales as animal feed. Japan grows short-grain rice. (Reporting by Risa Maeda, Editing by Peter Blackburn)
MGR Archive 9.6.2008
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