MANILA - The Philippines has approved the resumption of imports of Japanese "wagyu" beef, which were discontinued in 2001 after the outbreak of mad cow disease in Japan, the Japanese Embassy in Manila said Thursday.
"The discussion has recently been finalized and the Philippine government has finally approved the importation of beef from Japan," the embassy said in a statement, noting that negotiations for a lifting of the ban had been held on and off since 2004.
Japan has not had a case of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, in over a decade.
In May last year, the World Organization for Animal Health recognized Japan as having "negligible BSE risk," thus paving the way for its government to ask foreign countries to lift restrictions on Japanese beef imports imposed in the past for fear of BSE.
"Japan is now cleared of the so-called mad cow disease so we also lifted the disease restriction and give Japan the accreditation to export beef like the wagyu beef to the Philippines," Florence Silvano, the Philippine Bureau of Animal Industry's quarantine chief," told Kyodo News in a telephone interview.
Noting that there is a high demand for the pricey but super tender wagyu beef, especially from restaurants and hotels, she said, "We need to address that demand."
According to the Japan External Trade Organization, Japanese food is now booming in the Philippines, raising hope among major upscale supermarkets and meat distributors for an early lifting of the ban on wagyu imports.