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The cost of rice production in Japan fell for the fourth straight year in 2002, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said Thursday.

The cost of rice production per 1,000 sq. meters came to 153,592 yen for the 2002 harvest, down 2.8 percent from the previous year, according to the ministry.

Ministry officials attributed the fall primarily to reduced labor costs emanating from the outsourcing of pest control and drying work, as well as to decreased use of agricultural chemicals and fertilizers.

Gross income from rice production fell 2.3 percent to 126,194 yen per 1,000 sq. meters due to falling rice prices, while gains from production fell 5.3 percent to 41,563 yen per 1,000 sq. meters, the ministry said.

The nation’s rice growers receive government subsidies.