American rice campaign kicks off in Tokyo

In an effort to acquire a greater share of the Japanese rice market, the USA Rice Federation embarked Jan. 21 on a campaign to have more Japanese consumers give American rice a try, federation representatives said at a news conference in Tokyo.Imports of American rice have been allowed for two years in accordance with a minimum access plan under the Uruguay Rounds of trade agreements. “Now that rice has been in the market for two years,” said William Farmer, USA Rice Federation’s Regional Director, “we think it is time for a different strategy, one that is more market-oriented. Surveys have indicated that fewer than 25 percent of the Japanese public have ever tasted U.S. rice in an unblended form,” Farmer said.To provide an opportunity to taste 100% U.S. rice, the federation set up a promotional program in conjunction with Uniflex Marketing, a food and agricultural products marketing consulting company. The program, which will run until the end of May, is designed to help study the market and develop an awareness of and identity for American rice in Japan.The federation and marketing agency aims to get 500,000 people to try the imported rice. Agreements have been made to allow temporary sales of the rice through Jusco supermarkets, Family Mart convenience stores, Nihon Shokudo restaurants and various bento shops, said Yasunari Satomi, head of the new marketing program.