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International relations

Japan to lift ban on Russian chicken imports

Abe and Putin to sign deal on meat trade on G-20 sidelines

Japan, which gets about 70% of its imported chicken from Brazil, is seeking additional sources to meet growing demand.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan plans to allow certain imports of fresh chicken from Russia to help meet growing domestic demand as part of a broader accord to expand bilateral trade in meat.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are expected to reach an agreement at a meeting Saturday on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka. Abe hopes to use the deal as another step toward a long-awaited post-World War II peace treaty.

Japan bars imports of chicken and other poultry from much of the world over concerns about infectious disease. The government plans to have Russian meat inspected both locally and as it enters Japan to ensure its safety. It envisions allowing imports for commercial purposes, rather than consumer markets, and looks to let in only meat from the Tula and Bryansk oblasts, south of Moscow.

The deal will also include an expansion of Russian facilities to produce such processed meat as sausages for the Japanese market, as well as an increase in Russian purchases of Japanese wagyu beef.

The chicken ban would likely be lifted no sooner than 2020. The government consulted an Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry working group about the matter in May, and the working group is expected to submit a report after Tokyo and Moscow sign a deal.

Of the roughly 560,000 tons of chicken Japan brought in from overseas in 2017, about 70% came from Brazil, with another 20% or so purchased from Thailand. Japan resumed importing Thai chicken in 2014 following a 10-year ban prompted by an avian influenza outbreak.

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