Canadian beef back in Tokyo supermarkets

Canadian beef was back on some supermarket shelves in the Japanese capital on Tuesday, following the lifting of a two year ban on imports, but with consumers still wary about mad cow disease, it wasn't expected to be flying off the shelves just yet. Canada's Ambassador to Japan said he was confident that Canadian beef will regain its popularity following the easing of the ban.

"We are very confident that this market will strengthen as it did in the past and that the Japanese will again merit well from good quality Canadian beef," Ambassador Josef Caron said as he attended a ceremony at a Tokyo supermarket, one of the first to begin selling the beef Tuesday. "It will take a little bit of time, but it will come back," he said.

Canada exported between 10,000 and 20,000 tons of beef a year to Japan until trade was halted in May 2003, when the first case of mad cow disease was found in a Canadian animal. Before the ban, Japan was the third largest importer of Canadian beef after the United States and Mexico, according to the Canadian Embassy.

Japan partially lifted the ban on U.S. and Canadian beef imports on Dec. 12, allowing meat only from cows younger than 21 months. Hanamasa Co., a Tokyo-based operator of supermarkets and restaurants, said it had imported about eight tons of beef from Ontario to be sold Tuesday and Wednesday at its 10 outlets in the Tokyo area.

The meat was priced at about the same before the import ban, said company official Hiroko Abe, adding that Hanamasa plans to begin full-scale sales of Canadian beef in late January or February. Hanamasa may start selling U.S. beef next spring, she added. On Monday, two mid-sized supermarket chains in northern and western Japan began selling U.S. beef, reports the AP. N.U.

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