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Japan suspends live cattle imports from Australia

Japan suspends live cattle imports from Australia article image

Japan has temporarily suspended live cattle imports from Australia after a number of animals recently tested positive to a rare disease.

The ban came after a consignment of 300 of Holstein heifers was sent from Victoria last week.

Some animals in the consignment allegedly tested positive to Bovine Johne’s disease while in quarantine.

However, officials say the cattle tested negative to the disease before they left Australia.

In a recent statement the Department of Agriculture said it would investigate whether the cattle were prepared according to requirements.

Under Australian protocols, heifers must be tested twice for the disease before they can be approved for export to Japan.

Rare in Australia

A spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said the department is working closely with Japanese authorities, trying to resolve it as quickly as possible.

Johne's disease is relatively rare in Australia. It is caused by bacteria and leads to diarrhoea, tissue wastage and eventual death.

Cattle are commonly infected as calves but many do not display symptoms for many years, according to Animal Health Australia.

The number of heifers exported to Japan each year is relatively small. But the temporary suspension will affect the much larger bilateral trade in Wagyu feeder cattle, which are exported to Japan at a rate of 1000 a month, according to trade magazine Beef Central.

Japan is the ninth-largest market for Australian cattle exports, valued at $14.6 million in 2014-15. Australia's biggest export markets for live cattle are Indonesia, Vietnam and China.

It is unclear how long Japan’s import suspension will last.

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