Cheaper rice is expected to be offered in supermarkets when the Government lets more rice importers compete in the market. A Consumer Council spokesman welcomed the move which was announced yesterday, believing the decision would be of benefit to consumers. He said the Government's decision to bring in four more rice importers to the existing pool of 45 stockholders would help stimulate higher market efficiency and lower prices. The Director-General of Trade, Alan Lai Nin, said the move was 'to open up the rice trade'. 'This is to enhance competition in the rice business, and we believe that the addition of newcomers should be beneficial to consumers in the long run,' he said. The Government will also introduce an optional quota system for new rice stockholders later this year. A total of 1,000 units - equivalent to 90,000 tonnes of rice - are allowed to be imported into the territory. The optional quota system will allow more units. It is understood the decision was made after discussions with the Rice Advisory Committee and Consumers Council in light of importer Kian Gwan going out of business last year. The closure of that company left 40 units unused. A heated argument has raged for 20 months on who should be given the right to import Kian Gwan's share. Government officials, importers and retailers have also been at loggerheads on whether the rice-monitoring system should be scrapped. The scheme requires traders to maintain 55 days' supply in case of shortages. Tenders for being stockholders should have over $4 million capital and $6 million bank credits. Their annual turnover should be more than $15 million in the past three years.