Japan to scrap ban on British beef and lamb

Japan's 22-year import ban on British beef and lamb has been overturned, which could net British farmers more than £125m over the next five years.

Downing Street estimates that British farmers will earn £127m over five years from Japan’s decision to lift the ban on British beef and lamb. – image courtesy of Pixabay.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Prime Minister Theresa May are meeting today in Downing Street to discuss their countries’ economic opportunities in a post-Brexit world.

They will agree for their countries to collaborate on projects to tackle the Grand Challenges identified by the UK’s modern Industrial Strategy and Japan’s Society 5.0.

British and Japanese people will work together on important projects regarding medical research, robotics and data usage, using cutting-edge technology to boost innovation, create high-skilled jobs and improve people’s quality of life.

These projects include partnerships on new defence technologies, and on combat aircraft, missile development and autonomous systems.

Technology for the pensioners will be a core focus of future collaborative projects. British and Japanese businesses from both countries have agreed to design robotic systems to allow the elderly to live independently in their homes for longer and to create new treatments for people with dementia.

The UK’s Medical Research Council (UKMRC) and Japan’s Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED) have partnered on a £10m programme dedicated to the advancement of regenerative medicine.

The research will help understanding in critical regenerative processes in human health and translate research into tools and technologies to treat patients. It is hoped the research could lead to new therapies for use against cancers, including brain tumours or leukaemia, and repair damage caused by degenerative conditions such as motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.

The Industrial Strategy is setting out a long-term vision for how Britain can build on its economic strengths.- image courtesy of Pixabay
The new agreements between Britain and Japan will involve collaborating on projects to tackle the Grand Challenges identified by the UK’s modern Industrial Strategy – image courtesy of Pixabay

Downing Street said wider adoption of such technology could create up to 175,000 new jobs and boost the UK manufacturing sector by £455bn over the next decade.

Japan has also agreed to lift the ban on British beef and lamb exports. The ban was instituted in 1996 after the outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy among British cattle.

Known as ‘mad cow disease,’ it was thought to cause Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a fatal degenerative brain disease. It led to a ban on British beef exports around the world. The EU banned British beef exports the same year as Japan before overturning it ten years later.

Bans on British beef have gradually been reversed across the world. Russia lifted its ban in 2012, while the USA reversed theirs in 2017. China rescinded their prohibition only last year.

The Prime Minister’s office believe that British farmers could earn around £127m in the five years after the ban’s revocation – approximately £75m for beef and £52m for lamb.

The National Farmers Union welcomed the decision. Its livestock board chairman Richard Findlay said British beef and lamb producers would be boosted by Japan’s decision.

Their comments come as they publish a letter to the Prime Minister, along with the three other major UK national farming unions, warning of the “catastrophic” impact a no-deal Brexit would have on UK farming and food supply.

The food and farming industry calls for govt on post-Brexit regulations to recruit enough staff from the EU after Brexit - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
The National Farmers Union has called on the government to avoid a no-deal Brexit, saying it would have a “catastrophic” impact on UK food supply – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

He noted: “Currently 90% of our sheep meat exports go to the EU so expanding our export portfolio is a hugely positive step. Japan will no doubt be a high value market which plays well with the high quality, traceable beef and lamb produced here.”

The repeal came following a series of visits and negotiations between UK and Japanese officials, which culminated in an inspection of UK beef and lamb production systems in 2018, successfully hosted by Defra, the Food Standards Agency, and a number of other agricultural bodies.

Japan maintains a strict food safety and import controls regime. The UK government says that “opening this market is expected to send positive signals to other countries, particularly in Asia, regarding the safety of UK exports.”

While in London, Shinzo Abe is expected to tell Theresa May to avoid a no-deal exit from the EU. Speaking in the Netherlands, he said he wanted to “see the influence of Brexit to the global economy minimised.”

The Japanese Prime Minister is expected to reiterate his commitment to see a bilateral trade deal between the UK and Japan. In October he stated he would welcome Britain with “open arms” into the the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal after Brexit.

Last month, the EU and Japan agreed a trade deal that would slash Japan’s tariffs on European beef over a 15-year period from 38.5% to 9%. Overall, the deal removes 99% of tariffs applied to Japanese goods by the EU and 97% of tariffs applied to European goods by Japan. Together, the EU and Japan make up a third of the world’s GDP.

The kind of post-Brexit deal that will be ratified (or not) by Parliament will dramatically affect the price and amount of British-manufactured goods that will be exported to Japan.


Reporting by Harry Wise