By Ana Mano and Rodrigo Viga Gaier
SAO PAULO (Reuters) -Japan will resume chicken imports from Brazil's Santa Catarina state after a ban triggered by an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in backyard flocks there, Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said on Friday.
The ministry said in a statement that the ban, imposed on July 17, was lifted after it confirmed that poultry from Santa Catarina state is free from the disease.
Earlier, a statement from Santa Catarina citing Governor Jorginho Mello had said the embargo had been lifted.
Santa Catarina's government mentioned a bilateral agreement between Brazil and Japan that allowed for chicken sales to resume should no irregularities be found 28 days after the outbreak-related ban was imposed.
"Santa Catarina is free of avian flu," Mello said. "We are a reference for animal health ... and the outbreak is already overcome ...," the governor said.
The Brazilian agriculture ministry said the state of Santa Catarina is Brazil's second largest producer and exporter of chicken. It confirmed Japan lifted its ban on eggs, chicken meat and other by-products effective on Friday.
The news is a boon to local meat processors, as Japan is Santa Catarina's top poultry export destination, according to the state government.
Nationwide, only China imported more Brazilian chicken than Japan in the first seven months of 2023, according to trade data compiled by pork and poultry lobby ABPA.
Japan had temporarily banned chicken products coming from Espirito Santo state in late June and from Santa Catarina in mid-July.
In May, Brazil reported its first-ever case of highly pathogenic avian influenza -- in wild birds. But the country remains technically free of the disease as there have been no detections on commercial flocks.
Japan bought 257,446 tons of chicken products from Brazil in the year through July, an 8.2% annual rise, ABPA data shows. It was also Brazil's biggest egg importer in the period.
(Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier in Rio de Janeiro and Ana Mano in São Paulo; additional reporting by Roberto Samora and Peter Frontini; Writing by Ana Mano; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Diane Craft)