Japan resumes beef exports to US after 2-yr halt

TOKYO - Japan is set to resume from Friday beef exports to the United States suspended since April 2010 after foot-and-mouth disease was found in Japanese cows, a farm ministry official said, paving the way for wagyu beef to reach US gourmets.

Washington has given the green light for Japanese cattle slaughtered on Aug 18 or later to enter the world's biggest market, after a review of Japan's food safety measures allayed its worries about the chance of radioactive contamination.

Earlier this week, a Japanese farm official had signalled the export schedule might be disrupted after Washington asked for details of Tokyo's food safety measures.

"The US Department of Agriculture made a review of our radiation safety measures and gave a nod to it, so the timing to slaughter for exports remains unchanged," the official said.

The United States has set curbs, generally in line with Japan's domestic measures, on the import of other food products from Japan to protect against radioactive contamination since the Fukushima nuclear crisis sparked by last year's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Before Japan's outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, beef exports stood at 565 tonnes in 2009, 72 tonnes of which was bought by the United States.

Although there is no trade data on the type of beef exported, an export value of 4,000 yen to 6,000 yen (S$63 to S$96) per kg and a survey of exporters suggest most of the beef exported was wagyu, another ministry official said.

The United States has given Japan's beef a clean bill of health on the foot-and-mouth concerns.

Japan is also reviewing its curbs on US beef imports as global concern over mad cow disease ebbs.

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