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Earlier this year, with the food crisis in the daily headlines, the world's leaders made promises -- first in Rome at an FAO gathering in June and then at the G-8 summit in Japan the following month -- to make a concerted effort to provide relief for the world's poor. Among the pledges was that of Prime Minister Fukuda that Japan was prepared "to release in the near future over 300,000 tons." With the government holding 1.3 million tons of imported rice, my colleagues and I wrote that "it is time for Japan to quit stalling and show some real leadership by releasing its unwanted rice stocks."

Sadly, this is still true. Month after month has passed without Tokyo acting on its promise. Discussions with the Philippines over 200,000 tons have gone nowhere because Tokyo has insisted on a price that is now well above the world market -- all the while selling increased quantities of its rice at lower prices to the local animal feed industry.
Japan would be wrong to think that the world has entirely forgotten. As the Washington Post pointed out in an editorial on Tuesday, Release the Rice (III), world prices have declined one-third from their April high of $1100 per ton, but the current price of about $735 is still too high for the world's poor. Worse, the price is now once again on an upward trajectory: notwithstanding the decline of the last several months, world prices are more than double those prevailing one year ago and are up substantially over the mid-August low of $675.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD does not take institutional positions.