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China's rice import rises on market factors: official

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BEIJING, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- China imported more rice last year due to lower prices of imported rice and a rise in high-end demand, a Ministry of Commerce spokesman said Thursday.

Rice imports were very small compared with China's domestic rice output, spokesman Shen Danyang told a press conference while responding to a report claiming that China's rice import surged last year due to consumers' safety concerns.

China imported 2.58 million tonnes of rice in 2014, up 13.6 percent from a year earlier. The amount was only about 1.3 percent of China's domestic rice production, Shen said, citing customs data.

Shen attributed the rising import mainly to price difference between imported and domestic rice and the increase in high-end demands.

"Some high-income customers in China and high-end restaurants had larger demands for Thai fragrant rice and Japanese rice than before," he said, adding that both reasons were market forces.

The Ministry of Agriculture said more than 96 percent of major Chinese agricultural products passed quality tests in 2014, a proof of stable and improving quality.

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