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Japan opens market to U.S. beef

Progressive Cattleman Editor Carrie Veselka Published on 17 May 2019

After months of negotiations, U.S. and Japan trade officials have reached an agreement that will give U.S. beef unrestricted access to Japan’s competitive meat market. 

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a USDA news release that the two countries have agreed on “new terms and conditions that eliminate Japan’s long-standing restrictions on U.S. beef exports” and will expand sales to the U.S. top market.

Perdue met with Japanese government officials at the G-20 Agriculture Ministerial Meeting in Niigata, Japan, last week to affirm the importance of science-based trade rules. According to the news release, the new terms, effective immediately, will allow U.S. products from all cattle, regardless of age, into the Japanese market for the first time since the country banned all U.S. beef products following the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) outbreak in 2003. In 2005, Japan began allowing some U.S. beef products back into its market in very restricted amounts. That market has slowly been opening back up over the last decade, culminating in this last step toward an open Japanese market for U.S. beef. 

“This is great news for American ranchers and exporters who now have full access to the Japanese market for their high-quality, safe, wholesome and delicious U.S. beef,” Perdue said in the statement. “We are hopeful that Japan’s decision will help lead other markets around the world toward science-based policies.”

The USDA estimates that expanded access could increase U.S. beef and beef product exports to Japan by up to $200 million annually. 

Greg Hanes, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) assistant vice president for international marketing, recently attended FoodEx Japan, Asia’s largest food trade show and reported a growing and enthusiastic interest in U.S. beef from Japanese buyers. “You see a lot of potential now with these companies that really haven’t used U.S. beef for the last 10 years,” he said in a USMEF statement. “One of the key areas I think we’re going to see a lot of growth in is now the regional food service and retail chains. In the past, the limited supply that has come in has really been used up more by the national retailers and some of the national food service chains. Well now, that’s going to be able to get out into all these other areas.”

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Jennifer Houston sees additional potential in Japan’s lifting of their 30-months-of-age restriction on U.S. beef, only recently bumped up from 21 months. “This underscores the safety of the U.S. beef herd, and it will hopefully send a signal to other Asian nations that non-science-based trade barriers like this one should be eliminated in their countries as well,” she said in a statement. "Tariff rates grab all the headlines, but nontariff barriers are often just as important, if not more so, when it comes to determining market access. Hopefully, this will help spotlight this important point and lead to more trade victories in the near future."  end mark

Carrie Veselka
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