More rice brands join top ranks

by Minoru Matsutani

Staff Writer

Famous rice brands such as Koshihikari and Hitomebore usually come from the Tohoku region and Niigata Prefecture, but varieties grown in northern and southern ends of the country are building tasty reputations as well.

The Japan Grain Inspection Association has granted its “special A” ranking to 26 brands harvested last fall, with two from Hokkaido and five from Kyushu. Tohoku produced 10 and Niigata four.

While the number of brands with the top ranking rose across the nation, the association stressed that farmers in Kyushu and Hokkaido can be expected to continue to develop high-quality rice.

Kyushu farmers have succeeded in developing rice resistant to hot weather while Hokkaido growers are coming up with tasty and chewy varieties, according to the association.

“We think the trend of rice in Kyushu and Hokkaido gaining high rankings will continue,” an association official said.

The number of Kyushu brands granted the special A mark was unchanged at five from a year ago but is up from two in 2009. Kyushu never had more than two brands with the top ranking until 2010.

The trend also indicates that brands with little name recognition will continue to win high rankings as farmers develop delicious new varieties.

For example, last fall’s harvest of Genkitsukushi from Fukuoka and Yumepirika from Hokkaido received the top rank for the first time.

Of the 26 brands with the highest certification, nine were Koshihikari and six were Hitomebore.

Koshihikari orginated in Niigata and Hitomebore in Miyagi, but both are now grown all over Japan.

Information from Kyodo added