* Japan has decided to lift its rice import ban for emergency purchases to make up for this year's poor domestic harvest, Japanese newspapers reported yesterday.
The decision would not mean an end to the ban on rice imports, the Japan Times quoted unidentified sources as saying. Japan currently bans almost all rice imports. Eijiro Hata, minister of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries, will explain the emergency import plan at a ministers' meeting Thursday to study how to cope with the poor rice harvest, news reports said. His ministry reported last month that Japan's rice harvest this year is likely to be the worst in 40 years. It forecast a harvest of 8.62 million tons, or 1.43 million less than demand.
The mass-circulated newspaper Yomiuri said it is certain that Japan will import at least 300,000 to 400,000 tons of processed rice this year to be used for crackers and other processed foods.
The Japanese government regulates the domestic rice market, buying much of the crop and reselling it to consumers at subsidized prices more than five times higher than the world level.