The Liberal Democratic Party will request a budget of about 300 billion yen for rice policy reforms for fiscal 2004, LDP officials said Friday.

The LDP decided on the amount in a joint meeting of its divisions dealing with farm, forestry and fisheries policies.

Of the total, 253.4 billion yen will be set aside for financial help for farmers who reduce their rice acreage, up from 243.3 billion yen this year.

The largest chunk of the acreage-related outlay, 175.5 billion yen, consists of grants for farmers who switch from rice to other types of grains and farm products.

Agriculture minister Yoshiyuki Kamei said the rice-related budget plan by the LDP “will provide a sufficient base to push for reforms,” such as introducing market-oriented rice production.

The agriculture ministry is expected to compile its budget request for the forthcoming fiscal year based on the LDP plan.

Budget ceilings Aug. 1

Kyodo News Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa said Friday he will propose ceilings for budget requests by ministries and agencies for fiscal 2004 at a Cabinet meeting Aug. 1.

“I intend to use the opportunity to explain what the plan is for the budget request framework,” he told a news conference.

Shiokawa has said he wants to keep the size of the core general expenditures, which finance government projects, under the 47.59 trillion yen budgeted for fiscal 2003 in light of Japan’s debt-ridden finances.

He has also said he wants to cut public works spending by about 3 percent from a year earlier.

Once the framework is in place, ministries will submit their requests for a piece of the fiscal 2004 budget by the end of the month.

The Finance Ministry will then begin compiling the budget, a task that usually takes until the end of the year.

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