| TOKYO, July 8
TOKYO, July 8 Japan aims to restart buying U.S.
western white wheat as early as August, industry sources said,
after halting imports of the grain following the discovery of an
unapproved genetically modified strain in Oregon.
Asia's top wheat importer is worried about stocks of the
wheat grade it relies on to make cakes and confectionary, and
its return to the market would boost prices for western white,
hit hard in the wake of the scare over the rogue strand.
"(The government) is intending to resume imports as soon as
possible, as long as safety can be assured," said an industry
source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"But next week or the week after that is too difficult
scheduling-wise, so they're saying they'd like to resume in
Japan's farm ministry has said that imports could only begin
when it receives details of a U.S. investigation into how a GMO
strain of wheat developed by Monsanto Co, but never put
into commercial production, entered the system.
It has also said that the U.S. should implement tests for
future shipments before they head overseas.
It was unclear whether these conditions would be met by
August, but the sources said the government believes this is
"(When buying begins) depends on progress of talks with the
U.S. There are some conditions," Toru Hisazome, a farm ministry
official involved in wheat trading, said without giving further
details when asked about the timetable for a resumption.
Stockpiles at Japanese millers have been dwindling from the
150,000 tonnes, or 2.3 months worth, held before the GMO
discovery was announced in late May.
They will be boosted by a total 170,000 tonnes bought before
the import ban was introduced and which the government is in the
process of testing. After that, stockpiles will continue falling
unless the ban is lifted.
The farm ministry has also asked individual sellers to look
into taking out insurance to cover against future GMO
discoveries, three sources with knowledge of the matter told
This insurance, which could become mandatory later, would be
similar to existing polices used to defray costs incurred from
shipping back or destroying cargoes of wheat tainted with
pesticides outlawed in Japan.
Last week, for the first time since at least 1960, Japan
purchased alternative western white grades, taking a total of
750 tonnes of soft-red winter grain and club wheat from the U.S.
during a special dealing period.
The grain is expected to be mixed with the current stock of
western white to help it last longer.
The world's sixth-biggest wheat importer annually buys
around 800,000 tonnes of western white, a combination of soft
white and club white wheat developed particularly for Japan and
sold mostly to Asia.
Japan, along with South Korea, stopped importing the grade
in May after the U.S. announced the GMO discovery.
South Korea has since lifted its ban, with imports expected
to begin as early as this week after Seoul found no GMO grain in
tests of earlier shipments.