As expected, on Monday the Japanese announced it would lift it's nearly two-year-old ban on U.S. beef imports. According to wire reports, Ag Secretary Mike Johanns notes that American beef could arrive in Japan with in the next week to 10 days.
Japanese inspectors will be visiting American plants in the next few days to inspect the facilities. Once they get green-lighted, Johanns told the Associated Press that it would only be a matter of assuring the Japanese that requirements have been met.
At one time the Japanese market was lucrative for U.S. beef producers, with consumers buying more than $1.4 billion in product in the last year imports were allowed into Japan. But after the 2003 discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the United States, beef exports were banned.
Johanns, in a press statement, notes that Japan's move offers an excellent example for countries that remain closed to U.S. beef imports: "Now is the time for Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and others to open their markets to U.S. beef. I urge all countries to take a science-based approach and adopt [international] standards for allowing beef trade."
With more markets remaining closed the work continues. Secretary Johanns notes that trade is an important goal. "As I have said many times throughout this process, our goal is the resumption of normal beef trade throughout the world and we will continue to aggressively work toward that objective," he says.
The Japanese lifting of the ban includes beef from Canada that meets the same criteria, including animals 20 months of age or younger and no specified risk materials in the product shipped to the country.