COMMODITY / CHEMCICAL BRIEFS

COMMODITY / CHEMCICAL BRIEFS

JAPAN TO REASSESS PLAN

TO REDUCE RICE OUTPUT

TOKYO - The Japanese government plans to review its medium-term goal of reducing rice production after a low rice harvest this year, sources said Thursday.

The ministry of agriculture, forestry and fisheries had intended to cut the area of land devoted to rice production by 676,000 hectares a year in the three years starting with fiscal 1994-95 (April-March) but will now reduce it by 600,000 hectares. A hectare is 2.47 acres.

As a result, the government will have an estimated stock of 1.9 million tons of rice at the end of October 1997, up from an initial forecast of 1 million metric tons. The stock at the end of this month is expected to total 250,000 metric tons.

The government also plans to support farmers who are willing to resume rice production, the sources said.

BRAZIL FAILS TO ABIDE

BY COFFEE RETENTION PLAN RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - Brazil, the world's largest coffee producing nation, is not abiding by the export-retention plan agreed on in September to help boost prices, Brazilian producers say.

The Federation of Brazilian Coffee Exporters said on Thursday Brazil has not retained a single coffee bag since the agreement among Latin American and African producing countries went into effect Oct. 1.

The plan called for a 20 percent retention of exports by the countries that produce nearly all the coffee sold on world markets.

Prices have been depressed since the London-based International Coffee Organization collapsed four years ago.

MERCK'S EMPLOYEES

GET OPTION ON STOCKS

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. - Merck & Co. said it is granting employees the option to buy 300 shares of Merck stock under a plan it said was the broadest-based among U.S. industries.

Merck said the grant, coupled with a similar stock option plan offered in 1991, gives employees the option to purchase at least 600 shares.

"The principal reason we are granting these new options is that we are confident about our future," said Merck Chairman and Chief Executive P. Roy Vagelos.

Merck Executive Vice President Frank Spiegel said Merck employees currently own about 5 percent of the company's shares, including options outstanding.

"We're hoping to double that by the year 2000" by expanding on the current stock option programs, he said.

Merck said the new options are priced at $32.50, the closing price on the New York Stock Exchange on Oct. 20.

RUSSIA PUTS OFF TENDERS

FOR US WHEAT

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Russia will not tender for U.S. wheat under the PL-480 program this week, a U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesman said.

Exporters and traders had expected Russia to tender for wheat this week after purchasing only 51,000 metric tons of U.S. wheat last week when it had bid for 90,000.

The spokesman would not say whether or when Russia might enter the market.

Russia last Friday purchased 51,000 metric tons of soft red winter wheat under the PL-480 program for Nov. 15-Dec. 15 shipment. It had accepted offers for 90,000 metric tons of U.S. hard red winter and soft red winter wheat.