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UK exporters are set to benefit from a multi-million pound boost as Japan today (10 January 2019) opened its market to imports of UK lamb and beef.

The agreement, signed during Prime Minister Abe’s visit to the UK, is estimated to be worth a total of £127 million over the first five years of access – approximately £75 million for beef and £52 million for lamb.

Japan, a major importer of beef with a growing demand for high quality lamb, has lifted its two-decade long ban on imports of these products with immediate effect.

The deal follows a year of global successes for UK exporters, which included China lifting its ban on UK beef, Taiwan opening its market to pork and India preparing to import UK sheep meat.

Farming Minister George Eustice said:

"The opening of the Japanese market is an excellent result for beef and lamb producers across the UK and demonstrates confidence in our high standards of food and drink.

"As we enter a new era as a global exporter, unlocking this market marks a major step for future trading relationships and signals our commitment to supporting our food and drink industry to export more British produce."

The lifting of the ban follows 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 and the Animal and Plant Health Agency, the Food Standards Agency, Food Standards Scotland, DAERA, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and the UK Export Certification Partnership.

Japan is renowned for its stringent food safety and import controls regime and opening this market is expected to send positive signals to other countries, particularly in Asia, regarding the safety of UK exports.

AHDB International Market Development Director Dr Phil Hadley said:

"Today’s announcement is fantastic news for our farmers and producers and it follows years of hard work by government, AHDB and key industry stakeholders.

"Access to this lucrative new market is a testament to the high quality produce and world-renowned standards we have here in the UK. We are confident this new deal to export beef and lamb to Japan, alongside our existing pork trade, will create some exciting opportunities for our beef and sheep producers."

NFU livestock board chairman Richard Findlay said:

"This is clearly very positive news and a much needed boost for British beef and sheep producers.

"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."

Benefits will be felt across the supply chain throughout the UK, with access particularly welcomed by beef producers in both Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The market opening for lamb will also be good news for farmers in Wales, where the meat accounts for a third of total food and drink exports - worth £110 million.

Farmers and food producers can begin exporting as soon as the administrative listing process is completed.

The deal was announced as part of a series of new deals for British and Japanese companies announced during a visit by the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.