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An association of rice producers and related businesses in the United States said Wednesday it plans to increase the number of retailers selling U.S. rice in Japan.

The goal is to add some 120 retailers before the end of 2004 an additional 300 to 500 tons a year, the USA Rice Federation said. The federation began selling some 100 tons of U.S. rice at 44 stores in the Tokyo area and Kyoto Prefecture in February 2003.

It decided to expand the sales network as the 100 tons met with strong demand and sold out in eight months.

The network of 120 stores would consist of 50 in the Tokyo area, 30 in Fukuoka, 20 in the Kyoto-Osaka area, 10 in Sendai and five each in Sapporo and the Chubu area around Nagoya.

According to the federation, 50,000 to 100,000 tons of U.S. rice is currently sold in Japan a year at prices about 20 percent lower than those of domestically grown rice of similar quality.

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