Japanese officials gathered on Friday to commemorate the latest step in the nation's agriculture export push, as Japan resumed rice shipments to China this week following a four year ban.

At a ceremony in Tokyo, the head of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) expressed his enthusiasm over the first shipment of rice to China.

Japanese rice will be sold at Chinese outlet stores as a high-quality brand of rice, said MAFF chief Norihiko Akagi, stressing the importance of promoting exports overseas. I hope that the market for Japanese rice can expand around the world.

Prime minister Shinzo Abe, who also spoke, said aggressive agricultural politics has begun as he exhorted the MAFF to also boost rice exports worldwide.

China formally agreed to resume Japanese rice imports just prior to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Japan in April as part of wider cooperative measures between both nations. China banned the rice in 2003, citing pests.

At the ceremony, China's ambassador to Japan, Wang Yi, also stressed his hope for the betterment of relations between both nations.

A Japanese shipment of 24 tons of rice sent earlier this week has already arrived in Shanghai. The rice is expected to sell in major outlet stores in July for a premium price, catering to wealthy Chinese who prefer the taste of well known Japanese brands.