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Japan may ease U.S. beef import restrictions

Japan is preparing to ease restrictions on U.S. beef imports. A report from Bloomberg quotes two unnamed sources in Japan’s government saying Japan may raise the age limit of cattle from which U.S. beef can be imported from 20 months of age or younger to 30 months and younger.

According to the report, concerns in Japan have receded about the brain wasting cattle disease, BSE. Additionally, Japan’s domestic cattle production has fallen since their earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis.

Even Japan’s Ag Minister says there are hopes the issue will be resolved, but he won’t say when it could happen.

Until 2003, when a case of BSE was discovered in a cow in Washington State, Japan was the biggest buyer of U.S. beef.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says current restrictions result in about $1 billion in lost sales annually.

If Japan relaxes the age limit, U.S. shipments will likely return to pre-ban levels. U.S. Meat Export Federation Senior Tokyo Director Susumu Harada says most U.S. beef shipped overseas is from cattle up to 24 months of age.

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