Cattle farmers in Fukushima Prefecture have resumed beef exports to the United States for the first time in 2 and a half years.
Farmers celebrated the shipment of 3 cattle with a ceremony on Sunday. The leader of a local agricultural cooperative said the resumption is a tailwind for Fukushima farmers who have been suffering from the effects of the nuclear accident.
The 3 cattle will be processed in Japan and the meat will be sold to upscale restaurants in the United States.
Exports of Japanese beef to the US were suspended due to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in southern Japan in 2010. The suspension was lifted in August.
Cattle in Fukushima undergo radiation tests before shipment. But prices of Fukushima beef are 70 to 80 percent of pre-disaster levels.
Livestock farmers hope the resumption of exports will help to erase concerns about radioactive contamination.
Farmers resumed shipping livestock in Miyakonojo, Miyazaki Prefecture, Friday as a three-week ban on moving animals was lifted at midnight Thursday, after confirmation that the foot-and-mouth epidemic had ended.
A suspected case of the disease broke out June 9 in the city, which serves as one of Japan’s major livestock centers. But no other cases have since emerged, thanks to a quick countermeasure of culling and burying all the animals at the farm.
The Miyakonojo city office decided to reopen most of its public facilities on Saturday, including libraries and gymnasiums, which have been closed since the outbreak.
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Japan, scrambling to contain an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, will slaughter all livestock within 10 kilometres of the disease-hit areas, the government said Wednesday. The highly contagious virus has brought to a halt all Japanese beef and pork exports for the past month and crippled the premium beef industry in the affected Miyazaki prefecture on the southwestern island of Kyushu. Japan had already designated more than 118,000 cows, buffalo, pigs and goats from 131 affected farms to be destroyed. About half of them have already been put down in selected culls, latest government figures showed.
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