• Kyodo

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A rice trader in Shiga Prefecture told police Thursday that 75 percent of the rice stalks in his paddy had been cut away.

Police in the city of Omihachiman said Yoshiharu Shinohara found 15 ares of his 20-are rice paddy without any plants. Investigators said they were treating the incident as a new type of rice theft.

There has been a nationwide string of thefts of newly harvested rice in recent weeks.

Shinohara said he noticed his crop was missing around 12:30 a.m. Thursday. He said there was nothing unusual about the rice paddy when he last made the rounds of the area on Sept. 20, according to investigations.

The crop was apparently removed using a combine harvester, police said.

Shinohara was planning to harvest his rice this weekend. Police estimated that about 840 kg of rice, worth around 220,000 yen, was stolen.

“I’m devastated, as the rice was so near harvesting,” Shinohara said. “I can only suspect someone in the rice business (as the culprit), but to think that they would steal the stalks themselves!”

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