December 30, 2003



Japan Turns To Australia Beef


Japan has viewed Australia as a viable beef alternative following the discovery of the mad cow disease in the United States. A Japanese ministry of agriculture, fisheries and forestry delegation will visit Australia and New Zealand in January to procure more beef. However, Australian producers are not expecting a windfall for the Australian beef industry.


Meat and Livestock Australia marketing services manager Peter Barnard said he expected the Japanese ministry of agriculture, fisheries and forestry delegation to visit Australia and New Zealand early next month after Japan's quick decision in shutting doors to US beef.


"We don't believe that this event in the United States will lead to a bonanza for the Australian industry," Dr Barnard said.


"In fact, experience in the past suggests it's likely to be neutral if not slightly negative."


Japan halted imports of US cattle, beef and processed beef products after the US government announced it had found that country's first suspected case of mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Washington State.


The US, upon losing its Japanese and South Korean markets, could have a negative impact on exports to the US -- Australia's largest beef market, Dr Barnard said.


"It's possible that orders will increase from Japan, but that's got to be weighed up against the possibility of reduced orders from the US," he added.


"And the US tends to have its own customer base in Japan and Korea and sends particular beef cuts to those markets whereas we tend to sell a whole animal.


"So I don't think you can assume by any means that we will just take over what the US was sending there."


Australian beef producers hoped the international trade disruption caused by the US mad cow scare would be short-lived.


"We would hope that the trade disruption caused by this incident in the US will be short-term and we counsel that these isolated incidents are quite different from the systemic problems that we faced in Europe and Great Britain and require a different trade response," Dr Barnard said.

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