Japan's imports of U.S. beef decreases

The amount of U.S. beef Japan imported in the first month after a two-year ban was partially lifted was less than 4 percent of that before the import ban, a news report said Friday, suggesting consumers are still wary of American beef. Japan imported a total 745 tons of beef from the U.S. during the one-month period from Dec. 12, when Japan partially lifted the ban, Kyodo News agency said. The amount was a fraction of about 20,000 tons Japan used to import a month from the U.S. before the ban was imposed in December 2003 after the first U.S. case of mad cow disease, Kyodo reported citing the Health Ministry sources. Health Ministry officials could not immediately confirm the report.

U.S. beef returned to some restaurants and mid-sized supermarkets in Japan last month after the government announced it will allow meat from U.S. cows aged 20 months or younger back into the market. Before the ban, Japan was the most lucrative overseas market for the U.S., buying US$1.4 billion (Ђ1.17 billion) worth.

A Kyodo survey last month showed about 75 percent of Japanese are unwilling to eat U.S. beef because of mad cow fears, compared with 21 percent saying they would consume it. Major supermarket chains are taking a wait-and-see approach. American beef producers predict it will take at least three years to reach the shipment levels seen before the 2003 import ban, reports the AP. N.U.

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