This year's new rice is 10 percent to 20 percent more expensive on average than last year's crop, it has been learned.
A major reason for the increase is believed to be the efforts of wholesalers to purchase rice free of radioactive substances.
According to a list of new-rice dealings between the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JA) and wholesalers for the Sept. 26-Oct. 2 period, the largest price increases were for the Haenuki brand in Yamagata Prefecture and the Kinuhikari brand in Shiga Prefecture.
Both brands jumped 21 percent in price with the former brand selling for 14,500 yen per 60 kilograms and the latter for 14,800 yen.
The well-known Uonuma Koshihikari brand of rice grown in Niigata Prefecture costs 22,000 yen per 60 kilograms, an increase of 5 percent. Many other brands are 10 percent to 20 percent more expensive.
JA is involved in 60 percent of rice transactions.
The rise in prices is reflected in stores, with one large Tokyo supermarket saying the retail price of new rice is about 200 yen more per five kilograms than last year's rice.
Preliminary tests carried out by the central government for radioactive substances have detected 500 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram in rice grown in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, the prefecture that hosts the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
As 500 becquerels is the provisional upper limit in the government's guidelines for radiation in rice, prices may rise further depending on future test results.
A rice production index released by the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry on Sept. 15 indicated that the amount of rice produced this year is about the same as in normal years.
According to the Food Marketing Research and Information Center, a number of districts begin shipping their rice in early October, and supplies will be sufficient.
Based on this prediction, rice prices among dealers may stabilize, industry sources said.