Japan taking Canadian beef at pre-BSE levels: CBEF

Japan’s imports of Canadian beef and veal have “rebounded” back to their highest volumes since before it and several other countries shut their ports to the product in 2003.

Imports in the first eleven months of 2010 reached 13,277 tonnes, valued at $67 million and up 81 per cent over the same period in 2009, the Canadian Beef Export Federation said Thursday in a release.

Japan’s previous peak in Canadian beef and veal consumption came in 2001, at 29,000 tonnes, worth about $171 million.

“This increase was achieved despite the costs and logistical challenges of serving this highly-regulated market,” CBEF president Ted Haney said.

Export markets have reopened slowly in the wake of closures following BSE’s arrival in the Canadian cattle herd in 2003, and Canada’s market access to Japan remains held to boneless and bone-in beef and offal derived from cattle under 21 months of age.

Strength in Japan’s currency and increased purchasing power among its consumers are partly responsible for the increased sales to the third-largest beef-importing market in the world, Haney said.

“The major factor, however, is the efforts of the Canadian industry to serve this lucrative market. These efforts are seeing Canada’s exports to Japan increasing faster than overall (beef) market growth.”

European food marketing consultancy GIRA forecasts Japan’s beef imports will rise by 105,000 tonnes to reach 828,000 between 2010 and 2020, CBEF said.

“With anticipation and now great appreciation, Canada is experiencing very positive market growth into Japan,” Jeff Cline, senior program manager for international sales with agrifood giant Cargill’s Canadian beef packing wing, said in a release Thursday.

“Canadian industry, with the support of CBEF and government — and through collaborative relationships with (Japanese) customers — has expanded the number of end-use interests in utilizing Canadian beef,” he said.

Cline also cited the Canadian industry’s ongoing efforts to gather “commercially viable” cattle under 21 months of age, and its work in meeting and beating buyers’ expectations for quality and food safety.

Japan, the CBEF noted, is one of few markets that imports “practically all” its beef from high-quality suppliers in Oceania and North America, making it the second-largest importer of high-quality beef, behind the U.S.

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