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Farm minister Michihiko Kano said Wednesday the government is ready to release its stockpiled rice and there is an ample supply, in an effort to ease concerns about shortages in some parts of the country.

While the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry projected about 8.11 million tons of rice would be needed in the year from last July through the end of this June, it has secured 10.13 million tons on top of 920,000 tons in its own stockpile.

The shortage has been caused partly by transportation disruptions from traffic jams following the earthquake and tsunami, Kano said.

“I want to urge the public to act calmly, such as not hoarding more goods than necessary, while considering the urgent need to respond to the disaster-hit areas,” he said.

Kano also pledged to have rice distributors ship and sell the staple food to restore supplies in a smooth manner.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano asked the public not to resort to panic buying at a time when people affected by the devastating earthquake are in dire need of fuel.

April poll postponed

There will be no April gubernatorial, mayoral or assembly elections in the areas hit hard by last week’s disaster, the government said Wednesday.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s Cabinet approved a bill that would enable the postponement of at least two months, officials said.

It is expected to clear the Diet on Friday.

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