The decision stems from a ban dating back to 2003 due to BSE fears. Partial access had been restored over the years but it was only in January of this year that Japan’s Food Safety Commission decided to lift the age restriction for beef from the US, Canada and Ireland, with the terms agreed this week.
Both the USDA and the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) estimate that this decision could be worth up to US$200m annually, as well as grow trade with Japan.
“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 US beef,” US Secretary Perdue said. “We are hopeful that Japan’s decision will help lead other markets around the world toward science-based policies.”
USMEF president and CEO Dan Halstrom said the decision was a “major step toward putting BSE in the rear view mirror when it comes to global beef trade”.
“Beef muscle cuts from over-30-month cattle that are most likely to achieve success with Japanese buyers include short plate, chuckeye rolls, short ribs, middle meats, clods and briskets. Beef variety meat items most likely to be in demand include outside skirts, hanging tenders, mountain chain tripe, tongues, abomasum and intestines. The ability to use beef from over-30-month cattle will also lower costs for companies exporting processed beef products to Japan. But for the US industry to fully capitalize on this growth opportunity, US beef needs to be on a level playing field in Japan. So USMEF is also anxious to see progress in the US-Japan trade negotiations.”
The decision was welcomed by various US trade bodies. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association president Jennifer Houston said: “This is great news for American cattle producers, and Secretary Sonny Perdue and the Trump Administration deserve a lot of credit for helping knock down this non-tariff trade barrier in Japan. This underscores the safety of the US 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.
“Tariff rates grab all the headlines, but non-tariff 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.”
Ireland is also expected to benefit from this change in Japanese import policy. Irish Farmers Association president Joe Healy welcomed the decision although his team is examining if retailers will still request beef under 30 months. “We need to do all we can to persuade buyers that the age limit and other restrictions are no longer necessary so that they can be removed from the requirements for the in-spec bonus,” he said.