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Japan offers compromise on rice in Asia-Pacific trade talks: Nikkei

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Surely a step in the right direction. I can't tell the difference between Japanese rice and Californian rice. I won't buy Japanese rice anymore if I can buy Californian rice. My guess is that if these "tens of thousands" of tonnes of rice are offered to the public(as opposed to being all bought by the Japanese government) most customers will go for US rice. In Canada the same amount of Californian rice goes for a third of the price of Japanese rice in Tokyo. Worse case, US rice will be at least half the price of Japanese rice in Tokyo's supermarkets.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The tarriffs will remain... and car security rules will le lowered... progress US - style.

It might be worth mentioning, that in Europe, where NO rice is grown, all rice has to get imported, you get 6 kilos for the money you pay here for one kilo. On top of that people over there are aware of the simple fact that brown rice is a lot more healthy and nourishing, than that white straw....

4 ( +7 / -3 )

In turn, the United States has dropped its request that Japan ease safety standards on car imports

If Fiat's tiniest model can meet these safety standards, Detroit needs to whine at itself, not Tokyo.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

It plans to maintain existing rice tariffs, it said.

Without a schedule to reduce rice tariffs to zero, this isn't much of a deal.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Happy with the current rice I just got at the shop, 10kg for 1.890Yen.

Now if Basmati or Jasmine rice was cheaper I would be happy.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Europe, where NO rice is grown

Really?

Around two-thirds of the rice consumed by European citizens is grown in the EU. This is supplemented by imports of different varieties, mainly long-grain indica rice such as basmati from India and Pakistan. A small quantity of European rice – mainly japonica - is exported.

http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/cereals/index_en.htm

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Sense:

I always thought southern France (the wetlands of Camargue) grew rice. I remember that from geography lessons at school.

Instead of all this California rice which is similar to Japanese, I'd love to see affordable long grain and fragrant varieties like jasmine and basmati, as it's me says, especially brown. If the Japanese love their own rice so much, the rice growers here have nothing to fear about Japanese customers switching to dirty foreign rice if it's completely different. But I personally don't want to eat sticky, short grain. During my vacation, I got Thai rice, Canadian wild rice, and Indian brown basmati. And they were mostly cheaper than Japanese rice bought here. I just wish my suitcase was larger.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The US is a big place, but here are some prices in a US grocery store.

Imported Jasmine white rice. 10kg for ~ ¥1700 California grown medium grain white rice 10kg for ~ ¥1900 California grown short grain white rice 10kg for ~ ¥2300

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Anybody in Japan cheering for the TPP to go through so they can pay less for rice could always ask a Mexican how the "cheaper" American corn thing worked out after NAFTA went through. Domestic industry wiped out, and then prices raised up to higher than ever levels. Same thing in store for Japan if the government is foolish and / or corrupt enough to sign up for the TPP boondoggle.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

If the Japanese love their own rice so much, the rice growers here have nothing to fear about Japanese customers switching to dirty foreign rice if it's completely different.

I did try some Australian rice a year or so back, and indeed it wasn't as good as the Japanese stuff.

Whether it's worth the extra cost for the higher quality should though be a matter of personal choice.

Guy_Jean_Dailleult,

You have carefully charted corn prices to come to that conclusion, right?

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Pukey,

There's some great Camargue wild rice, but I always found it a bugger to cook. Brought back some Po Valley arborio from my last trip for a creamy, but still al dente, risotto, something I can't replicate with japonica.

Brown basmati sounds sublime. I get my long grain fix at some of the better curry houses (basmati pan fried with cloves in ghee on Saturday): beats anaemic nan any day!

fxgai,

Whether it's worth the extra cost for the higher quality should though be a matter of personal choice

Is it informed, personal choice, or collective, cognitive dissonance-driven conformity?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The US would be wise not to accept Japans BRIBE to by more USA rice on the cheap to maintain the status quo(which ISNT good)!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@Pukey and @SenseNotSoCommon.

This is a bit off topic, but just incase some people don't know. Wild rice is not actually rice or directly related to the rice discussed in this article. It is type of grass seed. If you are having trouble cooking it, most modern rice cookers in Japan do a good job preparing it using the brown rice setting.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I believe that Japan should not relent regarding rice. Other than an assortment of vegetables rice is about the only the thing the Japanese actually eat that is produced in Japan. I am exaggerating of course, but sixty percent of their diet is imported these days.

A nation has to produce some of its food to survive, which means farming has to be protected. It sucks for other industries, but food is really important. It would also be nice if Japan at least tried to overhaul its farming industry, but I do not think it is going to happen anytime soon.

An aside note: I am curious to know what the percentage of workers on American farms are actually American and how much that percentage contributes to the more affordable rice they produce. I do not know the answer to that I am just curious.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

A nation has to produce some of its food to survive, which means farming has to be protected.

Well Japan has loads of private savings, people can afford to pay for imported food. Were Japan poor like Albania then maybe I could agree with protections, but I don't see much chance of Japanese people starving if they reduce the amount of food they produce themselves.

And even without protections, I'm sure lots of Japanese people will stick to home-grown rice anyway, out of nationalism etc. But I see no reason for choice to be taken away from consumers, some of whom would prefer to spend more money on beer and whiskey than top quality rice.

It would also be nice if Japan at least tried to overhaul its farming industry, but I do not think it is going to happen anytime soon.

There's been some headlines about this actually (finally).

The Ishin party leader mentioned on the weekend the radical idea of permitting companies to be involved with farming. Such a common sense notion, yet that it isn't permitted in Japan already shows just how weird things are here.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

beowulf: An aside note: I am curious to know what the percentage of workers on American farms are actually American and how much that percentage contributes to the more affordable rice they produce. I do not know the answer to that I am just curious.

Rice production is highly mechanized in US, and possibly there are also government subsidies, so maybe illegal labor's contribution to price is negligible, but that is just a guess.

As opposed to strawberries, etc., which are picked by hand. They're not picking rice by hand!

http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main/rice/rice-glossary-1d.asp

On mega-farms in California, Texas and elsewhere, each March the rice fields are carefully leveled with laser-precision grading equipment (because flat land conserves water); tractors plow shallow furrows into the field, the water is run in to a depth of five inches, and airplanes flying at 100 mph sow the rice seeds from the air.

(photo caption) Old-style rice farming: Farmers working in a paddy in Bangladesh, planting seedlings as they’ve done for millennia. (photo caption) New-style rice farming: Seeding a rice field by plane in California’s Sacramento Valley.

US farm worker conditions ("rice" not mentioned):

http://www.economist.com/node/17722932

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Give me bread over rice any day. I love the bread here.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Not interested in cheap California rice. I want to be able to buy fragrant rice, basmati rice etc. at cheaper prices. After all TPP is supposed to be a 12 nation deal not a U.S. Japan deal!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Fxgai

Sorry to counter your opinion but what makes you feel that a nation should one hundred percent rely on imported food? Just because it has money, it is ok? If that were ok then why are the the other leading economies subsidizing their agricultural sectors so heavily? Singling out Japan is ridiculous as we have seen what the leading European economies continue to do to protect their agriculture sand the US of A is doing more or less the same. They have enough money to buy their food even if it all imported, right?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What I would like to see, should the TPP go through, is some variety in the strains of rice we're allowed to eat. If the TPP just means we get to buy American brands of Japonica rice, it would have the double effect of destroying Japanese agriculture (which, through its refusal to modernise is on borrowed time anyway) without offering any choice to the consumer except to allow him to persist in the delusion that rice grown in Japan is a wonder of the world.

Let's get access to reasonably-priced Basmati, Jasmine, Brown rice (other than genmai) and even wild rice. Japanese rice is great if all you want to eat is Japanese food. It doesn't mean everybody else shouldn't be allowed a choice.

I think what the powers that be are mainly afraid of is the possibility that one day Japanese people will start to consider the prospect that Japanese rice really isn't all that special after all, and wonder why they put up with paying through the nose for it all those years.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Japan should never loose control over the internal rice production. Once the farmers and out of business and the paddies sold for millions of dollars to condominium builders Japan will become totally dependent on other nations for this basic staple... That is NOT good, especially in the current situation, with both Korea and China behaving unfriendly (to put it mildly) towards Japan..

Yeah this sucks for other businesses, but rice should be give special status... otherwise I'm sure many countries will not hesitate to exploit this weakness...

-5 ( +1 / -7 )

I grew up on California rice, and I don't notice much difference between it and Japanese rice. That said, I like the fact that farms are owned by individuals here in Japan. I'd pay a little more for rice if it prevents the Monsanto-fication of all our food.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Harald, read my message again, and again, and again... I wasn't even trying to go to the taste argument - but to the fact that rice is a strategically important food staple, and no country should give up control on such things, especially with unfriendly neighbours capable of taking advantage of any weakness.

So yeah, what you mean is that the Japanese should buy the just as tasty but much cheaper let's say Chinese rice, leading to the bankruptcy of internal producers and to a total dependency on China. Next China will start playing around with Japan like a cat with a mouse, raising the prices whenever something inconvenient happens (like they just did with rare-earth elements)...

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Japan will just buy the U.S. rice and store it. Japan has one of the world's largest rice stores from storing U.S. rice it was required to buy.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Look at the game China played with rare-earth metals. Put everyone out of business with cheap prices, then raise the prices tenfold when you have a monopoly... Guess which other country lost the biggest amount of money on this ? if you guessed Japan, you're right...

I can see this happening to a lot of other strategical items, rice included...

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Sometime last year, I mentioned that a Republican Senate would jump on board a Senate up/down vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Now that it actually looks like TPP negotiations can be completed this year, Japan is willing to pull down some roadblocks of its own.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@volland

It might be worth mentioning, that in Europe, where NO rice is grown, all rice has to get imported, you get 6 kilos for the money you pay here for one kilo. On top of that people over there are aware of the simple fact that brown rice is a lot more healthy and nourishing, than that white straw....

If they are aware of it, it doesn't stop people eating white rice. In the European countries where it's grown, chiefly Italy, Spain and Portugal, their rice dishes are not only made with white rice but tend to the hearty end of things, with the addition of cheese, meat, and animal fat, or at the very least some nice seafood. Bloody delicious, as you would expect, though I also like the approach preferred in many Asian cuisines of not fiddling about with it so much.

Europeans who nibble at brown rice and extol its wholesomeness are more likely to be from somewhere well away from the rice-growing countries. Good luck to 'em, I guess, but the plain truth is that most people (and most especially where it is the staple food) simply prefer white rice, and that is fair enough. White rice feeds the world.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Europeans who nibble at brown rice and extol its wholesomeness are more likely to be from somewhere well away from the rice-growing countries.

Probably the same people who eat quinoa and chia seeds. Where I come from, you put chia on pottery, you don't eat it.

Of the different rice I've tried, other than for Japanese dishes, I prefer jasmine when cooking, and Bhutanese red if as its own dish.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Do some people think rice is white out of the husk? surely some do......Rice varieties in Japan are numerous;shades of brown. but also red and black...(a little pedantry goes a long way to irritate...ha) I don't really care to eat rice cooker rice every day...anyway, you can reduce the water to prevent sticky-ness ( rice el dente!) But just like the Japanese sensibility that is untranslatable and essentially incomprehensible to us non-natives, you have to be born into rice ( Japanese whitened rice ) to taste the subtle flavour...in the same way that bran flakes and milk for breakfast might seem incredible to a Canadian...habit in the making: grated cheese folded into hot rice...my daughter loves it...and i am to thank. So basically the whole nation here conforms to a very extremely high level of normality when it comes to food (explains a bit all the food tasting on TV-every channel at least three times a day!!!)...

Japan is under no fear of losing its cuisine because of TPP and invasion of business/corporate evils. If half the nation were to vanish and be replaced by aliens, that might present a significant challenge to the established norms( almost set in stone). and sorry but bread here is so sht, i mean all bread has sugar added- save a baguette- which is only edible from a proper bakery...

Modern rice producing methods?? I have a New Zealand friend who farms rice, basically alone...what should he do, sell his 80,000 dollars worth of equipment and return to age-old methods to compete with Loas, Vietnam, or Myanmar??? stillreading? We cannot compare vast farming fields in France-let alone the midwest- to the inaccessible rice patties of Asia...

lastly, i will admit that rice can be compared to wine in that there are some very high quality strains, and basically food you might decide to grow by yourself, for youself and family, will usually be better than what you might buy in the supermarket ( and yes i do live within 30 kilometres of the middle of nowhere in Japan and i do know a little what i'm saying, hence the pedantic tone...) And you'll find that alot of Japanese families maintain a small rice patty to feed the family (and avoid paying high prices) oh wife says stop internet..gotta go

2 ( +3 / -1 )

loggedin:

anyway, you can reduce the water to prevent sticky-ness ( rice el dente!) But just like the Japanese sensibility that is untranslatable and essentially incomprehensible to us non-natives, you have to be born into rice ( Japanese whitened rice ) to taste the subtle flavour.

OFGS, enough. I grew up eating rice myself, and I'm not Japanese. Japanese aren't the only people who grow up eating the stuff. And it doesn't matter how little water you use, you just can't get it to taste like long grain. I just don't like the heavy feeling after eating Japanese rice and I don't want my blood sugar levels to shoot up the roof.

ebisen:

Look at the game China played with rare-earth metals.

Rare metals don't have different flavours according to which country they come from.

fxgai:

Whether it's worth the extra cost for the higher quality should though be a matter of personal choice.

I agree about choice, but the problem is we're NOT given a choice. Where's the brown basmati in Japan? Why is jasmine and basmati taxed over 600% - surely no Japanese will mistake them for Japanese rice. It's like what happened straight after the Fukushima incident. All the cucumbers in the supermarkets came from Fukushima. It was either that or no cucumbers. I chose no. It was as if we were forced into helping out the Fukushima farmers by eating what could have been tainted. Whether it's rice or cucumbers, give the consumers a choice. Are the farmers scared of something?

zombienemesis:

Wild rice is not actually rice or directly related to the rice discussed in this article. It is type of grass seed.

That's right! However, since I always cook it with a variety of other rice and grains, I just call it rice. I managed to order a 2.5kg bag of the stuff - came to about 4000 yen, but it's a luxury item eaten in small quantities. I shared it with relatives and it works out way way cheaper than buying the small bags. I love the nutty texture and flavour of all these different stuff - brown long grain, wild rice, even quinoa and those small bags of assorted grains you can find next to the rice in the supermarkets here. After having started eating that way, I've found Japanese white rice to be absolutely bland. And void of nutrition.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

loggedin: And you'll find that alot of Japanese families maintain a small rice patty to feed the family (and avoid paying high prices) oh wife says stop internet..gotta go

Was looking at hand-pushed rice transplanters on Alibaba, they don't seem too expensive, few hundred dollars or so. For planting seedlings in the paddies.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

From a consumer standpoint, I'll pay extra to eat Japanese rice. Without writing a novel, I used to look forward to eating Japanese rice. Otherwise grew up on Cali rice, which isn't bad, but not good enough for me to save money over.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"CanadianJapanJAN. 26, 2015 - 07:33AM JST Surely a step in the right direction. I can't tell the difference between Japanese rice and Californian rice."

Perhaps you can't tell the difference between Japanese rice and California rice, but many people can. Rice comes in many grades, but generally high quality Japanese rice is much better than California rice. Of course it is also a lot more expensive. I suspect, however, for the highest grade Californian rice there wouldn't be all that much different in price because it is expensive too.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Jane,

Sorry to counter your opinion but what makes you feel that a nation should one hundred percent rely on imported food?

I don't think Japan "should" import all its food. People are welcome to stick to as much Japanese domestic produce as they like, but at the same time I think people who want to should also be welcome to buy foreign stuff.

I don't think it makes sense that the government dictates that when buying rice in Japan one has to buy only the Japanese stuff that's regarded as luxury food in other parts of Asia.

And look at the current butter debacle. That shouldn't even be a story - Japan has a shortage of butter, yet global dairy prices plunged last year due to an abundance of supply. The Japanese news reports just talk about the domestic production problems, but the reality is the problem only occured because of government meddling in the market. The solution is to just let the free markets import as much as they is demand for.

Just because it has money, it is ok?

I think people should be able to do what they want with their own money. I don't think the government should be controlling this aspect of people's lives.

If that were ok then why are the the other leading economies subsidizing their agricultural sectors so heavily?

Exactly, they should pull their heads in too.

ebisen,

Once the farmers and out of business ... Japan will become totally dependent on other nations for this basic staple... That is NOT good

Would that really happen? Lots of people will stick to Japanese made rice, because people believe it's high quality, safe to eat, and oishii.

What is a bigger problem in my view is the various government regulations on farming - which have today resulted in the average age of farmers hitting 66 years old (last I heard). Good luck with rice production in Japan while facing that sort of statistic.

Pukey2,

I agree about choice, but the problem is we're NOT given a choice.

I agree! This is my point as well. The government should stop messing with food markets.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Pukey2

I just don't like the heavy feeling after eating Japanese rice and I don't want my blood sugar levels to shoot up the roof.

That's all very well, but if blood sugar levels are truly of concern to you, there isn't much point in talking up jasmine rice, as you have done in a couple of comments above.

White Koshihikari a glycemic index of 48. Basmati has a GI of 58, and jasmine has a GI of 109. Out of those three, the one that will put your blood sugar "through the roof" is jasmine.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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