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Japan Looks To Raise US Beef Age Limit

09 February 2012

US - Japan, once the US's biggest customer, is considering lifting the age limit on cattle slaughtered for beef to 30 months, from 20 months.

The age limit was imposed after the BSE outbreak in the US in 2003. Beef exports to Japan nearly reached zero post 2003, however since then have been gradually increasing.

In 2011 (Jan-Nov), US beef exports to Japan reached 148,182 million tonnes, valued at $812.1 million, an increase of 29 per cent in volume and 38 per cent in value over the same period in 2010.

According to Global Trade Atlas date, the US share of Japan's imported beef market climbed 24 per cent in terms of volume, pushing Australia down.

With a 20 month age limit currently in place, only around a third of US cattle are eligible for export. Opening this age limit will mean that over 90 per cent of US cattle will become eligible.

It is estimated that the change in Japan's export requirements will allow an additional 184 million pounds of US beef to be shipped to Japan in 2012, adding an extra $50 per head to US cattle.

Although there is no time frame, the industry expects an announcement to come in summer 2012.

This is welcome news for the industry, which saw 2011 beef exports reach post 2003 highs last year.

However one question raised at the NCBA Trade Show and Convention last week was what effect will this have on premium schemes? Will the rise in age limit to 30 months reduce demand for premium under 20 month schemes?

US beef promotion in Japan took another major step forward in December when USMEF-Japan launched a joint promotion with the Tokyo Group.

"The fact that Tokyo Group has agreed to begin selling US beef enhances its image with Japanese consumers and is very helpful for increasing sales," said Takemichi Yamashoji, USMEF-Japan senior marketing director.

"This is the first case of a department store selling US beef and conducting a promotion since the resumption of US beef sales in Japan."

Charlotte Johnston, Editor

Charlotte Johnston - Editor



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