Australia’s federal agriculture minister Warren Truss has told a financial TV service that Australian beef producers will not give up their big share of the Japanese market without a fight.


“Japanese buyers have got used to trading with Australian suppliers now and we look forward to continuing those supplies also into the future,” he said in a Bloomberg television interview quoted by Australian Associated Press.


Japan banned beef from the US in December 2003 after the discovery of a case of BSE.  That triggered a big rise in demand for Australian beef, with exports to Japan increasing from about 280,000 tonnes in 2003 to 393,000 tonnes last year.


The US accounted for about 45% of Japan’s total beef imports in 2003, but Australian producers took up the slack last year and supplied 90% of Japan’s imported beef.


American beef is expected to be allowed into Japan again later this year, but Truss said it would take some time for the US to rebuild its exports.


“I suspect that when it does enter the initial exports will be quite limited and therefore the impact (on Australia) will not be huge,” he said.


“Time by time obviously the US and Canada and other countries will seek to rebuild their share of the Japanese market, but obviously we won’t give in without a fight,” he said.