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Business trends

Japan's price-conscious consumers turn to foreign rice

Australian and other imports find their way into homes and restaurants

With no brands of Japanese rice that sell for 300 yen or less per kilogram, one Japanese supermarket chain has turned to Australian rice.

TOKYO -- Prices for domestic rice are rising in Japan, driving consumers to cheaper foreign-grown varieties, the imports of which are still strictly regulated. But as more supermarkets and restaurants offer low-cost foreign rice, straining import caps, foreign rice producers are expected to call on the country to open its rice market wider.

In late March, supermarket operator Seiyu began selling Australian rice for the first time in five years, touting its low price. A 4kg-bag goes for 1,180 yen ($10.79), 20% cheaper than Japan's popular Nanatsuboshi variety. Seiyu is offering the Australian grain at all of its 144 stores in the Kanto region and other parts of the country.

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