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Wholesale prices of imported Australian beef declined last week to levels seen before the discovery of mad cow disease in the U.S. in December.

Agriculture and Livestock Industries Corp. said Monday the average wholesale price of refrigerated Australian beef came to 593 yen to 640 yen per kg for the Feb. 23-27 period, down 4 percent to 8 percent compared with the third week of December, before the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy was reported in the U.S.

“Australian beef is not selling well because people feel it’s more expensive than it should be,” an official of the organization said. “It seems Japanese consumers think it can’t be a replacement for U.S. beef.”

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said retail prices of imported beef rose for the seventh straight week in the same period.

The average retail price of imported refrigerated beef stood at 380 yen per 100 grams, up 4 yen, or 1 percent, from the previous week.

The average retail price of domestic beef was down 2 yen, or 0.3 percent, to 683 yen per 100 grams.

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