| TOKYO, July 29
TOKYO, July 29 Japan could resume buying U.S.
western white wheat as early as this week, industry sources
said, after adopting stricter measures designed to detect
genetically modified strains of the grain used for confectionary
A restart of imports by Japan, the top customer of U.S.
white wheat, will add to the already improving outlook for the
grade, as it joins South Korea and other big buyers in resuming
imports after discovery of a genetically altered strain in an
Oregon wheat field in May led to a halt in shipments.
"(The import restart) could be as early as this week or
next," said an industry source who declined to be identified
after attending a meeting held by Japan's farm ministry last
Friday for firms that handle western white.
Members of three other firms that had representatives at the
meeting echoed the same view.
The ministry has said that imports could begin only after
making sure that tests for the presence of genetically modified
organisms (GMO) are conducted in both the United States and in
Japan and that importers take out insurance to cover against
future GMO discoveries.
A farm ministry official confirmed the meeting and said
progress has been made towards restarting shipments. The
official added, however, that there are still decisions that
need to be made before imports resume.
A letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
certifying samples taken in the U.S. may be a requirement for
imports, but that has yet to be set, industry sources said.
The farm ministry is reviewing a U.S. government update on
how a GMO strain of wheat developed by Monsanto Co, but
never put into commercial production, entered the system.
Reuters reported early In July that Japan hopes to restart
white wheat purchases as soon as August.
Anticipation that Japan, which buys around 800,000 tonnes of
western white annually, would resume buying grew after the USDA
hosted a team from Japan's farm ministry two weeks ago for talks
aimed at restarting western white sales.
Recent meetings between a Japanese trade delegation and U.S.
Pacific Northwest merchants in Portland, Oregon, and the release
of western white - which had been purchased and shipped before
the GMO wheat discovery - to Japanese millers, raised hopes that
Japan will return to the market soon.
Japanese buyers are eager to arrange for white wheat
shipments that arrive in October and November, when import
demand peaks as millers work to make enough of the flour used to
bake the white cakes Japanese traditionally eat at Christmas.
Last month, Japan offered to buy alternative wheat grades to
western white for the first time in 53 years. Millers only took
a small amount and were seen using the volumes for testing and
to extend existing stockpiles, sources said.
Nisshin Seifun Group, Nippon Flour Mills
and Showa Sangyo Co control about 70 percent of Japan's