TOKYO, JAPAN –- Rice consumption continues to decline in Japan due to a decline in population and a downward trend in per capita consumption, according to a Sept. 20 Global Agricultural Information Network report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

USDA forecasts 2019-20 rice consumption at 8.4 million tonnes, down slightly from the previous year. Japan is projected to rank eighth in rice consumption in 2019-20.

“The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) estimates that the pace of consumption decrease for table rice has accelerated in recent years, which is partly attributable to a year-on-year increase in the market prices of table rice since 2016,” USDA said.

Meanwhile, Japan’s rice production is forecast to tick upward in 2019-20 to 7.8 million tonnes, up from 7.6 million tonnes in 2018-19, based on a projected yield improvement from last year’s crop.

USDA noted that Japanese consumers are eating more ready-to-eat rice in lieu of preparing rice at home. Production of sterilized packaged cooked rice has been steadily increasing and rose 5.7% to 170,000 tonnes from 2017 to 2018.

“Overall, production of processed rice products increased by 4.6% to 390,000 tonnes in 2018, up 20% from 2013,” USDA said. “However, the trend of increased consumption of packaged rice is not expected to overturn overall table rice consumption declines.”