By Diego Flammini
Japan has further opened its trade borders to Canadian beef.
On Tuesday, Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau and International Trade Minister Jim Carr announced that Japan will immediately allow imports of beef cattle older than 30 months of age.
Japanese restrictions on the age of Canadian beef imports have been in place since 2005, after the country closed its borders following Canada’s 2003 BSE outbreak.
The 30-month age distinction is important because of research from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
A study of 180,000 cattle in the United Kingdom diagnosed with BSE found that only 0.05 per cent of the animals (90) were 30 months of age or younger.
More access to Japan means more revenue for the Canadian beef industry.
Canadian beef exports to Japan totaled about $215 million in 2018 and the additional access could increase exports by 20 per cent, the federal ag ministry said.
The CPTPP will also contribute to better opportunities for the Canadian beef industry.
Under the agreement, Japan has already dropped its tariffs on beef imports from 38.5 per cent to 26.5 per cent. The country will further lower its tariffs to 9 per cent over the next 14 years.
Gaining increased market access to Japan will affect several industries, Minister Bibeau said.
“I was pleased to advocate for and represent our hardworking farmers and processors in Japan last week,” she said in a statement. “Our government is committed to creating good middle-class jobs by helping our farmers and processors compete and succeed in markets at home and around the world.”
The Canadian beef industry is pleased with the latest development in Japan.
Japan is seen as a leader in Asia and if it has lifted the beef age restriction, others may as well, said Dennis Laycraft, executive vice-president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.
“South Korea and China still have the 30-month restriction in place,” he told Farms.com. “Hopefully with Japan taking the lead on this, we’ll see discussions on the last remaining restrictions advance.”
The increased access is also a signal that Canadian beef remains some of the world’s best.
Over 40 countries shut out Canadian beef after the 2003 BSE situation, but the narrative seems to be changing.
“I think we’re coming out from the dark shadow that BSE had cast,” Laycraft said. “We’ll be eligible to apply for Negligible BSE risk status (through the OIE) next March. It’ll be 11 years since the last case we had was born.”