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Cattle Seat: Yoshi Tsuchiya (Japanese Beef Export Consultan

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Feb 11, 2005
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Cattle Seat: Yoshi Tsuchiya (Japanese Beef Export Consultant) Answers Questions About Exporting Beef To Japan

Does Japan Need To Import Food? Yes, Japan needs to import approximately 60% of its calories from other countries.

Does Japan Need The United States To Supply Them With Food? Japan currently imports a large portion of food; and this deficiency must be met by a supply from other countries.

What Were The Top Selling Beef Items In Japan? Tongue, short plates, short ribs, intestines, chuck rolls, and some high quality loins.

What Are The Japanese Regulatory Bodies Involved With Re-Opening Of The Border? MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishery). MHLW (Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare). *FSC is an independent organization that has historically been given the opportunity to provide a technical/scientific evaluation on any matters regarding food by the two ministries listed above. Technically, FSC doesn't have direct authority with regards to writing or enacting legislation, but they are always involved in the process.

What Is The Japanese Consumers' Perception Of US Beef? I do not remember the precise statistics -- but as of six months ago, consumer polling indicated that only 20% would eat US beef if it were allowed back in the country. However, last month, on the anniversary of the day that they stopped selling the product the year prior--the Yoshinoya Restaurant sold over 1.5 million beef bowls. The Yoshinoya Restaurant is one of the strongest US beef supporters and has suffered severely from the lack of US been in Japan. Furthermore, over one million individuals signed a petition in Japan, http://www.kaikin.jp/, requesting that the border to US beef be reopened.

What Is A Beef Bowl? It is a traditional Japanese entrée with beef, fresh onions, herbs and spices, on a bed of steaming, fluffy rice. See http://www.yoshinoyausa.com/menu.html.

Is The Japanese Market Aware Of The Difference Between Australian And U.S. Beef? Yes, primarily due to product labeling. Recently, there has been an increase in complaints associated with the tough texture and high price tag associated with Australian beef. The majority of Australian beef exported to Japan is grass fed. Only an average of 130,000 head/ week of grain fed product is exported to Japan from Australia. However, the Japanese consumer prefers highly marbled, grain fed product—thus, a major deficiency in the supply for grain fed product continues in the Japanese market.

How Many Cases Of BSE Have Been In Japan? Japan has had 15 confirmed cases of BSE. http://www.mhlw.go.jp/houdou/0110/h1018-6.html.

Why Has Japan Had So Many Cases Of BSE? The Japanese livestock industry relies heavily on foreign countries for feedstuffs; thus, Japan has had to import feedstuffs and feed ingredients. It is thought that Meat and Bonemeal imported from Europe was highly contaminated with the BSE prion and this caused the spread of the disease to cattle in Japan.

If You Had Another BSE Case In Japan, Would The Average Japanese Consumer Really Care? You would probably not see a response, as most people believe the blanket BSE testing that is conducted in Japan is the golden safe guard against BSE.

What's The Big Deal Then If We Have A Case In The United States? Aren't The Japanese Consumers Immune? The Japanese consumer does not like the absence of the BSE testing on every animal.

Does The Average Japanese Consumer Really Know The Difference Between BSE Testing Procedures Between Countries? They do not know the specifics, they just know that the US does not conduct blanket BSE testing across all cattle of all ages and that Japan does.

What Sequence Of Events Must Occur With Japanese Policy Before Trade With The U.S. Can Resume? a) The "blanket BSE testing" policy must be modified. Currently, Japanese law requires that 100% of cattle (regardless of age) must be tested at harvest for BSE. This law must be modified to eliminate the domestic policy testing requirement for cattle under 20 months of age. In order for this modification in Japanese law to occur, MAFF and MHLW must go through the following required steps. (Currently the Japanese are at step number three.) (1) Modify the 100% BSE testing law, (2) Conduct Risk Communication Meetings with consumers regarding the intent to change the law. Usually they conduct approximately ten meetings, but for this policy change they conducted approximately fifty separate meetings nationwide. The purpose of these meetings is for the Japanese government to communicate, educate and determine the impact the policy change will have on consumer confidence, (3) Ask the Food Safety Commission (FSC) to assess this modified law to approve the measure from a food safety perspective. FSC must formally accept the policy and provide an answer. (4) After step three is complete, and the law modified, the USDA and MAFF have to agree, finalize and publish the new trade rule. This then has to be assessed by FSC. Then they will hold approximately 10 additional Risk Communication meetings and allow the public to comment on the new trade rule prior to moving to step five. (5) If FSC's answer is "move forward with the policy change", MAFF and MHLW must then send the revised law to the Diet for approval. (6) If it is approved by the Diet, the law will be published and communicated to the Japanese public. (7) A Public Comment period follows and then the law is enacted. It looks like one more FSC meeting this month will finalize their assessment process. All communications indicate the FSC will approve the removal of the 100% testing policy. GOOD NEWS -- the FSC has established a risk assessment process. Therefore, if the USDA can provide sufficient evidence then this is no longer a time consuming issue. NEW CONCERN -- the GAO released a warning over the lack of inspection and follow-up by the FDA following their feed ban rule. This warning has now hit the Japanese media. Furthermore, just this week the Japanese government asked the US if they were ready to import Japanese beef if the new trade rule is written. If the conflict regarding the Canadian border issue and the ability to import from a low risk country is not resolved, this could again cause pause with the Japanese government.

Why Has The FCS'S Assessment Taken So Long? Ironically, U.S. debate between R-Calf and the USDA over the "low risk country" rule has slowed the FCS's process. R-Calf's response to Canadian imports reminds me of how the Japanese reacted following their finding of their first case of BSE. For example, R-Calf states that Canada's testing is not equivalent to the U.S.; likewise, the Japanese consumer's worries that the U.S. is of higher risk since their testing is not the same as Japan's. R-Calf accuses the USDA of not looking out for the consumer's best interest and the Japanese consumer accused their government of the same behavior. If R-Calf continues to make this point in the media, it gives the Japanese consumer more reason to want the import ban to stay in place and puts added pressure on the Japanese government to comply.

R-Calf Seems To Be Taking Blame Recently. But, Is That Fair? We Also Heard That Hosoda Is Fed Up With U.S. Pressure. It Appears That Japan Wants To Be On Their Timeline And Not Be Bothered? The R-Calf resistance to opening the Canadian border has simply complicated the issue with Japan -- it isn't helping. No one welcomes excess pressure.

Does It Matter To The Japanese Consumer If The United States Resumes Trade With Canada? As long as Canadian products are completely segregated and verified, it doesn't matter.

There Is An Obvious Sense Of Urgency On The American Side To Resume Trade. Is There Any Urgency On The Japanese Side? A Japanese Think Tank estimated that the U.S. beef ban in 2004 cost the Japanese economy approximately $2.2 billion (US dollars). Ten percent of Japanese BBQ restaurant's have gone out of business due to the shortage. However, having said this, Japan was successful in supplying consumers with 99% of the protein tonnage that they had consumed in 2003, even with the import bans due to BSE and Avian Influenza.

What Must We Do To Get This Thing Resolved? Japan must change government policy and consumer's perception regarding their blanket BSE testing law.

Why Can't We Just Threaten Not To Buy Japanese Radios Or Cars? Why Don't We Have More Bargaining Power If You Need To Import Food And We Are Such A Large Consumer Of Japanese Goods? Threatening is one of the tactics of international trade negotiations; regardless of whether people agree with this tactic or not. However, using this type of negotiation only seems to slow positive discussions between the two countries, and with progress being made -- now is not the time to threaten -- from my perspective.

When Can We Expect To Ship Beef? If everything goes well with the timeline established above, the estimate is the end of June, July or August.


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