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Mad cow disease caused at least 365 billion yen in damage to the farming sector and related industries, according to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry.

Kikuhito Sugata, director general of the ministry’s agricultural production bureau, disclosed the figure Thursday at the House of Councilors Budget Committee, saying it is “a bold estimate” of the damage caused between September, when mad cow disease — or bovine spongiform encephalopathy — was first confirmed in Japan, and February.

In the five-month period, farm revenues are estimated to have fallen by 131 billion yen from a year earlier, while industries involved in the sale of meat are estimated to have seen business fall by 160 billion yen, he said. Sales at “yakiniku” barbecued beef restaurants are estimated to have declined by between 74 billion yen and 90 billion yen.

The total cost is expected to be between 365 billion yen and 381 billion yen, Sugata said.

However, the government has paid out around 100 billion yen in compensation to farms, he said, pointing out, “The actual influence on farms is estimated to be around 30 billion yen.”

Sugata said he expects meat-selling industries to be “able to achieve a certain level of income because consumption of pork and chicken is rising and wholesale prices are falling.”

Food safety plan eyed

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said Friday that ministers in charge of food and health policies agreed at their first meeting to compile by June a plan to reorganize governmental bodies related to food safety control.

The ministers will also discuss new legislation intended to ease concerns over food safety in the wake of the discovery of mad cow disease in Japan in September, Fukuda said.

The members include Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tsutomu Taebe; Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Minister Toranosuke Katayama; and Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Chikara Sakaguchi.

Fukuda said he is organizing the assemblies, adding that senior officials from the Cabinet Office will also join them.

The first session of the ministerial-level meetings came after an investigative panel under the farm and health ministries issued a report Tuesday censuring the farm ministry for a “grave blunder” in its response to the threat of mad cow disease.

Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Heizo Takenaka, who attended the gathering, said separately that the government must review existing organizations related to food safety control and allot resources, including personnel and money, to essential projects.

“We need a spirit of using resources of the central government for any projects and plans that must be tackled selectively,” he said.

The relevant ministers plan to hold three more meetings before they compile the countermeasures.

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