Australia is urging Japan not to raise tariffs on beef, saying the market is still recovering from a BSE scare in the United States, the Australian Associated Press reported.

Japan is considering raising its beef tariffs to 50% from 38.5% in reaction to rising imports, the agency said.

Japan has an automatic trigger in place, known as a snap-back tariff, which is used when beef imports reach a certain level.

Trade minister Mark Vaile said he feared the tariffs could be lifted as early as next month and harm Australian farmers trying to export beef to Japan.

He said Australian farmers had worked hard to meet requests from Japan to send more beef after imports from the US were suspended in 2003 amid the BSE scare there.

"With this in mind, the Australian government believes it would benefit both our countries if Japan waived its safeguard measures and held the tariff on chilled and frozen beef at 38.5%, regardless of whether the trigger is reached," Vaile said.

"The recent increase in imports simply reflects the market recovering from the disruption caused by the discovery of BSE in the United States in 2003," he said. "That discovery resulted in Japan banning US beef imports; a move that saw Australian producers step into the breach and provide Japan with significant extra amounts of high-quality beef products to meet the demand from its consumers."

Opposition trade spokesman Kevin Rudd said Vaile had waited too long to try and resolve the tariff issue with Japan, Australia's largest trading partner.

Rudd said the uncertainty about beef tariffs followed uncertainty for Australian farmers last year about the same issue.

"How long will Australian beef producers have to put up with what is now becoming an annual event?" he said.

"Given our mutual interests these problems should not continue to reoccur there is too much at stake for Australian beef producers and Japanese beef consumers. This matter should have been resolved already at the government-to-government level."