Beef producers in Australia and New Zealand stand to gain from Japan's continuing import on beef from the US on BSE concerns.

Imports from the US were frozen before Christmas after a case of BSE was discovered there.

The two largest meat processors in Japan, Nippon Meat Packers and Itoham Foods, are both reported by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun to have unveiled plans to boost imports from New Zealand and Australia to make good the shortfall. Both companies are major importers of beef, with a good share of their inventory coming from the US in recent years. In fiscal 2003, for example, 100,000 tons of the 200,000t of beef handled by Nippon came from the US, with 70,000t emanating from Australia.

Nippon will boost the head of cattle raised at affiliated branches in Australia by 20% to 85,000, the paper reported. Itoham will reduce the fattening time for cattle raised in Australia and New Zealand from eight months to four to five months.