Japan's government this week has joined the fight to contain an expanding outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that is threatening its prize beef industry.

Amid criticism that he was slow to respond, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama established an emergency task force and is considering spending 100 billion yen ($1.1 billion) to prevent further spread of the disease and coordinate financial support for affected farmers.

"This is a very serious problem," Hatoyama said. "By working hard with local officials, I want to resolve this as quickly as possible."

Yesterday, Tokyo indicated the Japanese government will cull all livestock within six miles of the location of the disease occurrence, according to international reports.

In an interview with Meatingplace, Joe Schuele, spokesman for the U.S. Meat Export Federation said that the concern is media coverage of the FMD outbreak could negatively impact consumer demand.
The disease was first detected April 20 in Miyazaki prefecture on the southern island of Kyushu. The outbreak — Japan's first since 2000 — prompted the country to suspend beef exports for at least three months.

Since then, infections have spread to more than 110 facilities in Miyazaki, according to the prefectural government. Some 85,000 cows and pigs will be killed as a result.

Shoji Haneda, president of the central Miyzaki branch of Japan Agricultural Cooperatives, estimated that local farmers would lose 16 billion yen ($173 million) because of the outbreak. "But it's impossible to calculate how big the physical and psychological costs might become," he said Sunday.

Source: Associated Press, Meatingplace.com