Japan imports likely limited

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Feb 7, 2005
by WLJ
A top official of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said Jan. 27 he believes the amount of U.S. beef imports to Japan will be limited even if a ban on such imports over BSE is lifted later this year, reports Kyodo.
"Unfortunately, we would not be able to respond to demand from restaurants serving beef dishes and ox tongues," said Mamoru Ishihara, vice farm minister, at a press conference.
Japan and the United States are expected to hold high-level talks in February aimed at striking an accord to lift Japan's ban on U.S. beef imports. If the two countries carry out procedures without any delay, the United States could resume exporting beef to Japan in the summer, according to Japanese government sources.
The two sides discussed details of preparations for resuming beef trade at working-level meeting in Tokyo on Jan. 27, but the U.S. side did not provide any explanation on the exact amount of beef that could be exported to Japan after the termination of the embargo, ministry officials said.
Chuck Lambert, deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said that cattle whose beef could become eligible for export to Japan would account for up to 35 percent of all U.S. cows slaughtered for consumption. But he did not elaborate on the actual amount.
Last week, U.S. officials proposed that the country only export to Japan beef from two groups—cattle whose age has been certified as 17 months or younger based on beef quality examination on carcasses, and cows whose age has been verified with birth certificates and other programs.
In the age verification method based on carcass examination, tongues and intestines will be removed in advance, and the ban on export of those parts will remain, the officials said.
Beef bowl restaurants will need short-plate meat taken from numerous cows but partial resumption of U.S. beef imports would not fulfill their demand, they said.
Ishihara, however, said that he welcomes progress made so far in overall U.S.-Japan beef talks.
At the working-level talks, Japan also asked the U.S. delegation about a claim by a U.S. labor union that some slaughterhouses in the country do not take adequate measures to prevent mad cow disease. But U.S. officials did not clearly answer the question, Japanese officials said.
Japan has banned American beef imports since the first U.S. case of BSE was found in a Canadian-born cow in the state of Washington in December 2003.