Japan placed a temporary ban on imports of live Australian feeder and breeder cattle after livestock tested positive for Bovine Johne’s disease (BJD) on Thursday 2 June. It is believed that 300 animals from Victoria tested positive for the infectious bacterial pathogen after Japanese quarantine officials carried out routine infectious disease tests on the livestock.
Wagyu exporters are likely to be hit hardest by the ban, as the two countries run a regular shipment of Wagyu cattle from Brisbane to Japan.
Japan has only placed the ban on live cattle imports; it will still receive Australian exports of beef.
Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Water said it was working hard to resume trade with its “highly valued trading partner” and confirmed it was working closely with Japan to end the embargo.
“An investigation is being undertaken by the department to confirm that the consignment of 300 cattle from Victoria were prepared according to the importing country requirements,” said the government department in a statement on Friday 3 June.
“The department continues to liaise with industry and exporters to keep them informed on the progress of the investigation. The department has also contacted Japanese authorities to request a bilateral technical meeting to discuss the issue and ensure it is resolved in a timely and effective manner.”
Cameron Morse, a spokesman for one of Australia’s largest livestock exporters, Wellard Limited, said the company would not be impacted by the ban. “Wellard does not currently supply cattle to Japan, so the company is unaffected by the Japanese suspension of live cattle imports from Australia.”
Japan imported 6,861 live cattle from Australia between January and November 2015, according to trade statistics from Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA). Live cattle trade is a much smaller operation in comparison to the trade of meat. Over the same 11 months, Japan imported 285,224 tonnes of Australian beef, to the tune of AU$1.7bn.
MLA has indicated Australia’s live cattle exports to all markets will drop by 17% this year.
Japan is Australia’s only live cattle export market that is actively working to eradicate BJD with sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures in place to control the disease from entering its market. Australia’s other live cattle export markets are “unaffected by BJD prevalence”, according to the Department of Agriculture and Water.