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Food & Beverage

Japan sake industry tackles rice surplus as COVID hits demand

Brewers shift production to other drinks while retailers seek new Asian markets

Nanbu Bijin will start production of rice-based Japanese craft vodka and gin early this year to lessen the growing problem of surplus rice used in sake production as demand for the traditional alcoholic drink has fallen amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Nanbu Bijin) 

TOKYO -- Japan's sake industry is taking on the problem of a surplus of rice specially grown for making the fermented alcoholic beverage as the coronavirus pandemic causes a sharp drop in demand for the drink due to the closure and reduced operating hours of restaurants and bars around the world.

According to Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, demand for rice used in sake manufacturing last year is predicted to drop by about 10% from 2019 on the hit to orders for the traditional beverage.

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