Japan will close 10 rice markets in the country and will not allow any more importations until it has implemented price controls to stop the surge in rice prices, the country’s top cabinet official said Monday.
The cabinet meeting came as the country grappled with an unprecedented spike in the cost of rice, a staple of Japanese diet and a key source of income for many families.
The country’s annual budget for the fiscal year ended on Sept. 30.
The government is set to release its fiscal year results later this week.
Japan’s rice prices surged as low as 2,000 yen ($0.25) per kilogram in early September.
Last month, rice prices spiked by nearly 100 percent in one month.
The rice import ban came in response to a surge in imports in the first half of the year from China and other Asian countries.
The ban, which is in place for now, also covers rice produced outside of Japan.
It comes as the price of rice has dropped more than 40 percent in the past year.
In a bid to boost rice imports, the government in July announced a plan to reduce the number of farmers who produce rice and to make rice more expensive by raising prices on the rice export market, which exports rice to other countries.
The government has said it will introduce a new rule in September to limit rice imports from China, the world’s biggest rice exporter, but some rice farmers have said the ban is a threat to their livelihoods.
The new rule will be implemented in a phased manner.
The Cabinet has said the new rule should be introduced in September, but farmers have warned that they will not accept the ban if it is not implemented.
“It will make the rice rice and not the rice,” said Masato Miyashita, a farmer in central Kyushu Prefecture, one of the main rice producers in the region.
Farmers are concerned about the potential impact of the ban, especially in the rice exporting market, where rice prices are currently around 1,000 to 1,200 yen per kilo.
“The market is completely shut,” said Yoshitaka Saito, a rice farmer in Kagoshima Prefecture.
“It will be difficult for us to earn a living.
We will have no other option than to go outside.”
The government says that it is aiming to import about 70,000 metric tons of rice this year and 50,000 tons in 2020.
The import ban is the largest since the introduction of the countrys new rice price controls in March of last year.