The world's most spoiled choir finds that an important addition to their carefully designed diet becomes increasingly difficult thanks to thousands of pigs getting sick in China.
Japan's wagyu, famous for its soft, fat and marbled meat, is dependent on China for the supply of rice straw, an important part of gourmet cattle's high-calorie proteins.
Since the outbreak of African swine fever in China, a large part of the vital feed has been banned from entering Japan, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries fears that eventually no deliveries will be available when the fatal disease spreads.
African swine fever, a highly contagious disease that started spreading in China in August, has caused alarms in neighboring countries with increased disease monitoring and tighter control of imports. With a vaccine, the virus is 100 percent fatal to pigs and can cause chaos in a country's agricultural industry.
While the disease can not affect cattle, it can be transmitted to pigs via contaminated feed, which means that Japan must increase its biosecurity measures to prevent the virus from entering the borders.
"This is a major problem for both the Chinese and Japanese livestock industry," said Shinichi Igawa, deputy director at the Department of Animal Health Department of Agriculture. "We may have to find alternative sources of rice for rice or alternatives to rice threats, with the risk that African swine fever continues to spread across China."
The Ministry has already abolished rice trunk shipments from 25 of the 80 Chinese processing plants approved for import by Japanese authorities. The 25 prohibited facilities are located within a 50 kilometer long line of Chinese pig farms affected by African swine fever. The remaining facilities are also at risk because they are in the northeastern provinces of Liaoning and Jilin, both affected by the fatal disease.
Japan imported over 200,000 tonnes of rice straw from China last year, about 20 percent of the total needed to feed its high-quality cattle, sold in the Aeon supermarkets for more than 17,100 kronor per kilo.
Chinese rice straw can be bought as cheaply as 10 pounds per kilo, while the household can cost more for farmers who do not have rice growers nearby because of the high transport costs. It may be more economical to buy options, such as wheat straw from the United States or Australia, said Igawa.
For lover of wagyu already expensive precious beef could become more expensive unless a replacement was found, he said.