A shipment of Taiwanese rice bound for Tokyo departed central Taiwan yesterday, the second in a series of three deliveries of the biggest rice order received from Japan in eight years.
A ceremony was held in Changhua County’s Pitou Township (埤頭), where the rice supplier, Union Rice Co, is based, to mark the shipment and the success of Changhua rice in entering Japan’s market.
The rice is being delivered to major Japanese rice importer Kitoku Shinryo Co, which ordered 360 tonnes earlier this year, the largest purchase of rice since exports to Japan were resumed in October 2004.
The rice will be distributed directly to Japanese retailers, the first time Taiwanese rice will be sold to Japanese consumers. In the past, it was mostly sold to wholesalers supplying restaurants or food processors.
Agriculture and Food Agency Director Li Tsang-lang (李蒼郎) said rice exports have long been constrained by high costs of production, which make Taiwanese rice more expensive than that grown in the US, Thailand and Australia.
Kitoku Shinryo decided to place an order due to the high quality of Taiwan’s rice, he said.
“After the rice passed all tests, they placed an order with us. The success represents positive recognition of the quality of Taiwanese rice and the technology used to process it,” Li said.
The Council of Agriculture said rice exported to Japan must pass 591 pesticide residue tests before being given the green light.
Makoto Hirayama, president of Kitoku Shinryo Co, visited Taiwan last month to inspect paddy fields, barns and processing plants and tasted the rice himself before placing the order.
The order has been partly motivated by the food shortages faced in Japan recently. Radiation contamination of farms from the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant and flooding in Niigata, a famous rice production district, have combined to limit Japan’s food output, the council said.
The council was confident that Japanese importers would continue to order rice from Taiwan even after the shortages pass because of the high quality of Taiwanese rice.
Yesterday’s shipment, like the first one, weighed 108 tonnes, with the rice packed in 30kg bags. Upon arrival in Tokyo it was to be repacked before being distributed.