Japan Seeks to Buy Alternatives to Oregon Wheat in Tender

Japan is seeking to buy alternatives to Oregon wheat in a tender on July 11 as the government extended the suspension of purchases from the U.S. state for a sixth week after the discovery of unapproved gene-altered crop.

Japan plans to buy 23,963 metric tons of club wheat grown in neighboring Washington state, 1,710 tons of U.S. soft-red winter, and 1,497 tons of Australian premium-white, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said today.

Western-white wheat from Oregon, which is now banned, was used in Japan to make cakes and cookies, the ministry said in a statement. Millers could face shortages if replacements aren’t found after the suspension of shipments on May 30, Hiromi Iwahama, a director of grain trading at the ministry, said June 27. The ministry also plans to buy 22,784 tons of western-red-spring wheat from Canada, used in bread, in the tender, it said.

The government can’t resume imports from Oregon before establishing the system to detect modified strains, Iwahama said. Japan’s food-safety law bans sales of food containing GM crops that haven’t been confirmed safe by the nation’s health ministry. Contaminated supplies must be shipped back to exporting countries or disposed of.

The Agriculture Ministry controls overseas purchases and domestic sales to stabilize supply in Japan, which depends on imports for almost 90 percent of its wheat. The U.S. is the world’s biggest exporter. The Consumers Union of Japan on June 4 asked the government to ban imports of U.S. wheat after the modified strain developed by Monsanto Co. was found in an Oregon farm.