TOKYO (AFP) — Japan is to release 20,000 tonnes of rice for developing countries in Africa and elsewhere to help ease food shortages, a government official said Friday.
Tokyo will use its stockpile of domestic and imported rice for the aid package, part of 100 million dollars' worth of emergency food aid announced in late April, foreign ministry official Shigeru Kondo said.
The government decided at a cabinet meeting Friday to release a first tranche of food aid worth about 54 million dollars, he said.
"Part of the grant aid will be offered to five countries such as Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and under the scheme those recipient governments will buy Japanese rice of about 20,000 tonnes in total," he said.
Other recipients countries include Guinea-Bissau, The Central African Republic and Burundi, he said.
The move to send rice to Africa comes ahead of an African Development conference Japan will host next week.
Tokyo is also considering a request to send 200,000 tonnes of its stockpiled foreign rice to the Philippines.
Food shortages have sparked protests and even riots in some countries and export limits in others, hurting developing countries where food costs consume the lion's share of household income.
But Japan, Asia's biggest economy, is sitting on stocks of 1.5 million tonnes of imported rice as it needs to import 770,000 tonnes every year to fulfill its obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Japan has pledged to put the global food crisis on the agenda when it hosts the annual summit of the Group of Eight rich nations in July.
Japan is considering focusing foreign aid efforts on boosting rice production in African countries, officials said.
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