August 4, 2011


Japan's radiation crisis to affect beef production



Japan's widening ban on cattle shipments following the discovery of radiation-contaminated feed will reduce domestic beef production in the short term, according to a Reuters report.


Japan has extended its ban on beef cattle shipments to four prefectures in the northeast after discovering that some farmers had fed their cattle straw that was left outdoors following the March 11 earthquake and subsequently contaminated with radioactive cesium from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.


In fiscal 2009/10, combined cattle shipments from the four prefectures - Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima and Tochigi - had accounted for about 13% of total shipments in Japan.


A health, labour and welfare ministry official said no prefecture has yet provided detailed inspection plans for their cattle, which is a precondition for lifting the shipments ban, so it remains unclear when the government could lift the ban and allow farmers to restart production.


"Beef consumption in general has been declining, including domestic beef, and there are stocks, so we don't expect beef imports to jump immediately," a farm ministry official said. "It's been just a couple of weeks since the ban on some shipments, so we will need to carefully monitor their impact on the market, although we do not foresee any major effect."


Japanese beef imports in the first six months of 2011 rose 5% from the first half of 2010 but were down 11% from the second half. Japan's beef production for January to May inched down about 1% from the same period a year ago.

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