Japan should be allowed to re-sell US rice: NGO

WASHINGTON, May 14, 2008 (AFP) – The United States should allow Japan to sell its 1.5 million tons of imported US rice or give it to the World Food Program to help cool runaway rice prices, a nongovernmental organization said Wednesday.

“An agreement by Washington and Tokyo for Japan to release its 1.5 million tons of unwanted rice stocks is the key to piercing this bubble,” the Washington-based Center for Global Development (CGD) said.

Under its World Trade Organization commitments, Japan imports a substantial amount of medium-grain rice from the US and long-grain rice from Thailand and Vietnam, the organization said.

But to protect its domestic rice protection, Tokyo stocks the imported rice until it deteriorates, then sells it as livestock feed on the Japanese market, Tom Slayton and Peter Timmer of the CGD said in the statement.

Most of the 1.5 million tons of rice in storage is in good condition, they said, and is incurring large storage charges.

“Japan would be very happy to dispose of this rice to the world market, but it cannot do so without US acquiescence,” they said.

“The simplest mechanism to stop the (rice price) crisis is for the US to authorize Japan to sell its surplus rice stocks directly t