Japan's bumper rice harvests have prompted a recommendation by a Food Agency panel to cut the nation's rice stockpiles.

The interim report released Thursday said the government's current stockpile of the staple could be to be reduced from 2 million tons to 1.5 million tons. The panel is slated to issue a final report, possibly by the end of the year, in which it will recommend an appropriate stockpile level, agency officials said.

Currently the government is dedicating ¥2bn a year to store 100,000 tons of rice, so the Food Agency will welcome any reduction of pressure on its special account for managing food.

The Law for Stabilisation of Supply, Demand and Prices of Staple Food enacted in 1995 sets the level of government stockpile of rice at 1.5 million tons or more on the assumption that poor harvests continue for consecutive years. Recent good harvests have raised questions as to whether the government should store such a large amount of rice.

By Michael Fitzpatrick, just-food.com correspondent