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The government will increase the 2001 import quota of nori from South Korea to 150 million sheets — an increase of 30 million sheets — as a result of a poor seaweed harvest in Ariake, a major seaweed producing region in southern Kyushu, officials said Tuesday.

South Korea has urged Japan to return to an import quota of 250 million sheets, the ceiling previously allowed by the government between 1972 and 1997.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry resisted raising the quota above 150 million sheets on the grounds that seaweed output in regions other than Ariake were normal and that inventory levels from the previous harvest were high.

Imports of South Korean-produced laver have risen annually, from 12 million sheets in 1995 to 89 million sheets in 2000.

The amounts imported are small in comparison with overall domestic output, which is estimated at 10 billion sheets.

However, Japanese laver producers have objected to import quotas being relaxed on the grounds that an increase in imports could cut into the industry’s demand for self-sufficiency in seaweed consumption.

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