The Japanese government yesterday [Wednesday] lifted a ban on Australian rice imports.

Australian minister for agriculture Warren Truss confirmed that the country had been granted an exemption from the ban on all rice imports imposed by the Japanese government after lead was discovered in rice shipped to Japan from the US.

The ban threatened to hit Australian rice growers hard, as they export some A$60m (US$30.5m) of rice to Japan each year. Truss said the exemption was granted after Japanese agriculture minister Tsutomo Takebe received assurances that the bags carrying the Australian rice were free of contamination.

Truss took the opportunity presented by the dialogue with the Japanese government to offer reassurance concerning the safety of Australian beef in the light of the recent outbreak of BSE in Japan, reported the Australian press.