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The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry might increase imports of sticky rice, used to make “mochi” rice cakes, to counteract an expected shortage this year, a senior ministry official said Thursday.

The government has no sticky rice in reserve and is “responsible” for supplying a necessary amount, according to Yoshiyuki Watanabe, vice minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

“An expansion of the cap on imports (of sticky rice) is an option to study,” he said.

Poor crops are expected in rice-producing regions such as Hokkaido and Miyagi prefectures due to unseasonably low summer temperatures.

It would be the worst rice harvest since 1993, when there was a rice shortage of about 2 million tons. The government was forced to import rice on an emergency basis and rice brokers were flashing bundles of bank notes at farmers in an effort to get their hands on some rice.

To deal with the situation this year, the ministry may increase sticky rice imports while reducing ordinary rice imports to a level below the minimum volume Japan is internationally obliged to import, Watanabe said.

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