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Govt concerns over Japan’s export plan


May 26, 2008

Govt concerns over Japan’s export plan

A plan by the Japanese government to export rice from its warehouses, purchased under World Trade Organization regulations, will depress rice market mechanisms and set global rice prices into volatile motion, a senior Thai commerce ministry official warned Sunday.

Foreign Trade Department director-general Apiradi Tantraporn said Japan had now stored about 1.5 million tonnes of rice which it purchased under the WTO's regulations and had recently negotiated with the Philippines on selling about 200,000 tonnes of stored rice.

The intention for rice imported by Japan under the WTO is for the country's domestic consumption and not for re-export, said Apiradi.

Since 1995 Japan has imported rice at a level of 600,000-700,000 tonnes annually, mainly from Thailand and the US, for its own use, she said.

The re-export of rice by Japan will go against objectives of WTO and will also further depress global rice prices, Apiradi said, adding that there were signs since the beginning of May that rice prices in the world had begun to stabilise, unlike the first four months of 2008.

If Tokyo's plan materialises, global rice prices would become depressed again and farmers in rice producing countries, including Thailand, would be severely impacted, she said.

Apiradi said if Japan wanted to help countries facing natural disasters or food shortages, it should go through international organisations such as the UN World Food Programme or hand out aid in the form of cash donation.

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