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OSAKA — A two-day trade fair designed to introduce and promote U.S. agricultural products in the Kansai region opened Wednesday at Osaka MyDome, beside the Osaka Chamber of Commerce building.

Sponsored by the U.S. Agricultural Trade Office Osaka, the fair features 72 booths offering everything from meat and seafood to microbeer. A special section is also devoted to products from Hawaii.

Although past ATO fairs have been open to the public, this one is only for retailers and wholesalers. About 1,000 people are expected, officials said. Two seminars will take place during the fair. The first will feature U.S. grapefruit, and the second will cover organically grown U.S. products.

“As many Japanese have, of late, become extremely interested in food safety, especially in relation to the dioxin problem, the organic seminar was initiated to explain how organic foods are grown in the U.S.,” said Terrence Barber, executive director of the ATO in Tokyo.

Dan Berman, director of ATO’s Osaka office, said two U.S. food products that have sold well in Kansai lately include fresh blueberries and bagels. He added that the difficulty was not getting products into Japan, but on the shelves of local stores because of limited space.

Although trade figures for western Japan were not available, Berman said that U.S. agricultural exports to Japan, excluding forestry products, amounted to $13 billion in 1997. Meat imports were down that year because of the 1996 outbreak of poisoning from the O-157 strain of E. coli bacteria in Sakai, he said.

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