Japan lifts restrictions on U.S. beef imports

May 18, 2019

SCOTTSBLUFF — Restrictions on U.S. beef imports to Japan, which have been in place since 2003, were lifted Friday, Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue announced.

In December 2003, Japan banned U.S. beef and beef products following the detection of a BSE-positive animal in the United States. In December 2005, Japan restored partial access for U.S. beef muscle cuts and offal items from cattle 20 months of age and younger. In February 2013, Japan extended access to include beef and beef products from cattle less than 30 months of age.

Friday’s action paves the way for expanded sales to the United States’ top global beef market, which the USDA estimates to be worth about $200 million annually.

Last week, on the margins of the G-20 Agriculture Ministerial Meeting in Niigata, Japan, Perdue met with Japanese government officials and affirmed the importance of science-based trade rules. The new terms, which take effect immediately, allow U.S. products from all cattle, regardless of age, to enter 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 U.S. beef,” Perdue said in a statement. “We are hopeful that Japan’s decision will help lead other markets around the world toward science-based policies.”

The agreement is also an important step in normalizing trade with Japan, as Japan further aligns its import requirements with international standards for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer, who sits on the Senate Ag Committee, expressed gratitude for Perdue’s work and said she looks forward to expanding market access for Nebraska beef.

“Nebraskans produce some of the most high-quality and delicious beef in the world,” Fischer said in a statement. “It’s great to hear that Japan has lifted the restrictions on U.S. beef exports, increasing opportunities for our state’s ag producers.”

Fischer had previously met with Shinzō Abe in 2016 and 2017 to discuss the conditions of the export restrictions.

Dan Halstrom, president and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), said the removal of the 30-month age limit was a major step toward putting BSE in the rear view mirror.

“While most of the U.S. beef shipped to Japan will continue to be from fed cattle under 30 months of age, the opportunities for over-30-month beef cuts and beef variety meat are significant,” Halstrom said. “Japanese buyers from the pre-BSE era are very familiar with these opportunities, and USMEF has been educating many others who entered the industry over the past 15 to 20 years.”

USMEF said in a release that the ability to use beef from over-30-month cattle will lower costs for companies exporting processed beef products to Japan.

The new terms and conditions will be posted May 20 to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Export Library and the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Export Verification Program Web page.


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