Fri, May 23, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Japan to provide rice aid to ease global food crisis


Japan will release some of its huge stockpile of rice to help ease the global food crisis, sending some 18,000 tonnes to five African nations in coming weeks, a government official said yesterday.

The rice, less than 1 percent of Japan’s 2.02 million surplus tonnes, is part of a US$50 million emergency food aid plan to be endorsed by the Cabinet today, said Shigeru Kondo, a Foreign Ministry aid official.

The total aid package — which includes grains, beans and other foods in addition to rice — will be disbursed in 12 countries, including Afghanistan, by international relief agencies such as the World Food Programme.

Japan’s decision to open up its rice warehouses comes as prices of the grain and other staples have jumped around the world, sparking violent protests in some countries.

“Rice prices are skyrocketing, even though prices of wheat and other crops have somewhat subsided,” Kondo said. “Our aim is to make effective use of our resources for those who are in dire need of food relief.”

The US$50 million package is the first half of a US$100 million relief plan Tokyo announced last month.

In addition to the aid package, Japan is considering a request by the Philippines to sell it some 181,000 tonnes of imported rice to ease rising global prices.

The stocks will mostly come from rice imported by Japan from the US under international trade rules, so Tokyo needs to first iron out details with Washington as the exporter, said a second Foreign Ministry official on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.

Japan’s stockpile includes imported rice from the US, Thailand and Vietnam in the compulsory “minimum access” annual purchase under the 1993 WTO agreement.

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