JAPAN DENIES CHARGES OF FEED GRAIN CARTEL

JAPAN DENIES CHARGES OF FEED GRAIN CARTEL

Japan's Ministry of Agriculture today denied charges by the U.S. Feed Grains Council that feed grains prices here are "cartelized" and that the ministry may be benefiting from it.

"We have nothing to gain from expensive feed prices and no domestic feed

grains industry to protect," said a ministry official."In fact, we are interested in preserving Japan's livestock industry, and do not want to harm it. Why should we?"

The official was responding to comments made by the head of the US Feed

Grains Council Thursday that the ministry was allowing domestic livestock farms to collapse by advocating a multilayered distribution system that boosts feed grains prices.

Kenneth Hobbie, head of the council, said at a press conference at the U.S. embassy here that Japan's government had not taken seriously the council's repeated calls to look into the matter, and prepared a 65-page report detailing the domestic feed grains trade.

He also said the council took the matter to Washington in late February, where it was discussed under the Structural Impediments Initiative, which aims at reducing structural barriers to trade. But a ministry official in the commercial feed division said the ministry has already expressed its willingness to meet with the council representatives for talks.

''We told them we are willing to talk," he said. "But we haven't received any response from them so far. I'm beginning to wonder who is the one that's not taking this issue seriously." The official charged that the report prepared by the Research Institute on the National Economy was based only on half-truths and didn't present convincing evidence that any of the findings directly affected the competitiveness of Japan's livestock industry.