Farmers protest Koizumi Cabinet's new rice policy

About 1,800 farmers, consumers, and workers on December 4 carried out rallies throughout the nation in protest against the government's plan to abandon its responsibility to stabilize the supply and price of rice, Japan's staple food.

In Tokyo, protesters, with tractors in the lead, marched in demonstration through the government office district in Kasumigaseki to call for rice and the nation's agriculture to be saved.

The concerted action came the day after the Koizumi Cabinet approved a new plan to let producers decide on acreage and on other adjustments of rice production.

Akahata of December 4 warned that the new policy will only cause a fierce price war, discourage farmers from growing rice, devastate farmland, and decrease the nation's food self-sufficiency rate.

In parliament on December 4, Nakabayashi Yoshiko, Japanese Communist Party member of the House of Representatives, criticized the decision and urged the government to maintain its role to keep the rice price stable.

Nakabayashi said that even the U.S. administration has funded 52-billion dollars (about 6.5 trillion yen) for protecting U.S. agriculture for six years from 2002, and explained that even under the World Trade Organization rules, individual countries can take measures to support the price of farm products.

Furthermore, the WTO agreement allows each country to take measures to secure the rice price, Nakabayashi pointed out.

Farmers' representatives visited the agricultural ministry to submit a letter signed by 641 organizations, including 69 mayors of cities, towns, and villages, 10 local assembly speakers, and 98 agricultural cooperative union presidents.

They requested that the government retract the new policy, cut rice imports, and expand measures to protect domestic farm products.

Farmers voiced their anger and anxiety at the new policies outside the ministry office all day. (end)