Japan may export rice to Sri Lanka: official

TOKYO, June 2, 2008 (AFP) – Japan is mulling a request from Sri Lanka to export up to 200,000 tonnes of its imported rice supplies to help Colombo ease acute food shortages, a Japanese foreign ministry official said Monday.

Tokyo is also mulling a request to sell 200,000 tonnes from its 1.5 million tonnes of imported rice to the Philippines.

Food shortages have sparked protests and even riots in some countries and export limits in others, hurting developing countries where food costs consume the lion’s share of household income.

But Japan, Asia’s biggest economy, is sitting on a rice mountain as it needs to import 770,000 tonnes every year to fulfil its obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Imported rice, unpopular in Japan, often ends up in processed food or is kept until it deteriorates and then sold as livestock feed.

To sell these stocks outside its domestic market, however, Japan is required to obtain approval from the exporting countries. “We are considering their request,” said the official, who declined to be named.

“It is still unknown in what form we can provide foreign rice, for example, as grant in aid or by selling it at reasonable prices,” the official sai