Japan is making preparations to protect its Shiitake mushroom industry, which it fears is being driven to the wall by an influx of cheaper imports. It has launched a formal investigation into the problem, which could lead to the imposition of temporary safeguard duties, following World Trade Organisation rules.

The Japanese government claims that between 1997 and 2000, imports of fresh or chilled Shiitake Mushrooms, (Lentinus edodes), increased by 64%. At the same time domestic production declined by 10%, the wholesale price by 11%, gross income by 20% and net income by 60%.

Meanwhile, Japan has launched a similar investigation which could lead to the erection of safeguard duties restricting the import of fresh or chilled Welsh onions, (Allium fistulosum L.), which have been flooding into the country.

Initial figures say that imports of the product increased by an amazing 811% cent from 1997-9, while domestic supplies declined by 2% and the wholesale price by 12%.

By Keith Nuthall, just-food.com correspondent