American meat and vegetables could be a hot commodity in Japan
Grocery store clerk handles U.S. meat
Kai Ryssdal: The news from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant continues to be a mixture of good and bad. There's outside electrical power hooked up now. But temperatures inside at least one of the reactors are still too high.
The World Health Organization weighed in on food contamination today. Traces of radiation have been found in milk, vegetables and seafood collected near the plant. The WHO said the problem's more serious than first thought and that it's not a localized issue.
More problems are the last thing Japan needs, but rising food prices may be on the way. Marketplace's Jeff Tyler reports.
Jeff Tyler: On top of everything else, Japanese consumers have food issues. Hoarders have cleaned out grocery store shelves. Replacement shipments are backed up at the ports. And rolling electrical blackouts threaten anything that needs refrigeration.
Dan Basse: There is progress being made. But we think it will take another couple of weeks before there is some kind of routine, if you will, back to the Japanese food markets.
That's Dan Basse, president of AgResource Company, an agricultural consulting firm. Even during good times, Japan imports about 60 percent of its food. Basse expects U.S. agriculture will get a boost as Japanese consumers worry about radioactivity in homegrown products. He says the Japanese government may reconsider rules imposed on U.S. beef in 2004 after an outbreak of mad cow disease.
Basse: The Japanese have demanded that cattle slaughtered and sent to them are at a much younger age than we consume here in the United States. Will they drop that age requirement as the demand for U.S. beef or meat becomes greater?
Others think Japan is not likely to end quotas and tariffs on U.S. imports. Bill Lapp is with the ag forecasting firm Advanced Economic Solutions.
Bill Lapp: I don't think we're going to see a significat shift away from current policies.
Lapp does expect to see increased demand for U.S. goods in the months ahead.
Lapp: But I don't think it's a significant shift to a new and higher level of trade into Japan as a result of this.
Right now, Japanese consumers might welcome extra imports. Tight supplies are expected to make Japan's food more expensive.
I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.