Japan beef import ban lifted

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A ban on Japanese beef imports into Australia has been lifted.
Camera IconA ban on Japanese beef imports into Australia has been lifted. Credit: WA News

A ban on Japanese beef imports into Australia has been lifted after 17 years, in a back-scratching arrangement cattle groups say is unlikely to affect local producers.

The trade was swiftly banned in 2001 after an outbreak bovine spongiform encephalopathy, “mad cow” disease, in Japan.

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources announced the access agreement this month, saying the trade would “be safe with the right measures in place to mitigate identified risks”.

The agreement includes chilled and frozen meat, which Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said was likely to be predominantly expensive wagyu.

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“Japan buys more Australian beef than any other country on earth and trade is a two-way street,” he said.

“We can’t expect other countries to take our exports and refuse to take their imports.

“Australian farmers are hugely dependent on exports as we grow enough food for 75 million people — roughly triple our population.

“Further, under the World Trade Organisation’s trading rules and our bilateral agreement with Japan, we are obliged to allow beef imports from Japan when it is safe to do so.”

Japanese exporters would have to meet strict biosecurity requirements before their products were allowed into Australia, Mr Littleproud said.

“The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources approved Japanese beef imports after a detailed health and biosecurity risk analysis that found trade will be safe with the right import measures in place,” he said.

Historically, Japanese imports into Australia have centred on wagyu for top-tier restaurants.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA livestock committee chairman Chris Patmore said the trade was unlikely to significantly affect Australian wagyu producers. “We can’t really see a problem with it as long as the health protocols are followed,” he said.

“It would only really be for high-end Japanese restaurants ... the small amount coming in wouldn’t be enough to significantly affect Australian producers.”

Red Meat Advisory Council had previously called for $6 million in funding to police biosecurity if chilled and frozen imports from Japan and the US were to resume.

But the organisation did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

A draft report analysing risks associated with resuming the trade, released by the department in December 2016, received submissions from a range of industry bodies.

Concerns raised included biosecurity breaches, salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium DT104, and the risk of mad cow disease.

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