The government is discussing plans to extend best-before dates for pork products to boost their export numbers, according to sources.

The best-before periods for Japanese pork products are shorter than those for products from other nations, making a dent in their export competitiveness. The agriculture and health ministries, related organizations and other groups will set up a study panel to draw up a report on the issue, possibly before the end of this summer, the sources said Monday.

The best-before period for widely traded vacuum-packed products that need to be preserved at zero degrees has been set at 20 days since 1995, compared with about 50 days in the United States and Canada.

The government plans to extend the best-before periods in stages to bring them on par with overseas nations, in view of the improved hygiene controls at slaughterhouses in Japan, the sources said.

The government has been prompted to explore additional overseas market opportunities for Japanese pork products due to the recent weakness of domestic consumption.

Pork products are exported mainly by sea and the constraints of the best-before dates mean that their main markets are limited to Hong Kong and Singapore. Government officials aim to develop new markets in Europe and North America, where washoku Japanese cuisine is drawing keen attention, the sources said.

The study panel will look at hygiene controls aboard and review guidelines for setting best-before periods, the sources said.

“Extending best-before dates will make distribution by ship more active,” one source said, expressing hopes for export promotion.

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