The Japanese government overpaid ¥2.3bn (US$10m) in a beef buyback scheme launched to help the beef industry cope with the discovery of BSE in the country last September.

Agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister Tsutomu Takebe revealed yesterday [Tuesday] that farmers will not be asked to return the excess money. Among those payments that should not have been made were those for meat frozen prior to the discovery of the mad cow disease, as the scheme only intended to reimburse producers for meat frozen after that date.

The government conducted checks into the beef stocks it had paid for after it emerged that meat packing giant Snow Brand Foods was abusing the buyback system by mislabelling imported beef as domestic produce.

"Inspection results show that 50% of the 7,000 boxes [of meat] were not qualified for subsidies. If we were to make a bold estimate, the [overpaid] amount comes to ¥2.3bn," Takebe told local newspaper Kyodo News.