Large quantities of rice stockpiled by the government in Japan may be sold to Japanese feed manufacturers as an alternative to imported maize (corn), says Masachika Murai, director of the rice policy division at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Tokyo.

Domestic rice consumption has fallen with the decrease in Japan's population and the volume held by growers and distributors is the largest for seven years, so that the government is struggling to sell surplus supplies from its reserve of about one million metric tons.

Japan's feed industry imports 12 million metric tons of maize annually, mainly from the US. Mr Murai suggested that a large part of this corn usage could be replaced by up to 700,000 tons of rice from the government's stores. The industry is ready to use more than a million tons of rice as an alternative to imported corn if the price is affordable, he claimed. It already buys from the government about 300,000 tons per year of rice that has been imported under an agreement by Japan to grant minimum market access to rice-exporting countries.