For the first time in nearly 15 years, Japan has reopened its borders to imports of sheep and goat meat from the United States.
The U.S.Department of Agriculture and its counterparts in the Japanese government finalized an agreement Thursday to establish new terms for the return of U.S. sheep and goat meat sales in Japan.
Japan closed to U.S. lamb in December 2003 as a result of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) detected in the U.S. cattle herd. Since then, it’s been a market that U.S. sheep and goat meat producers have been eager to restore.
According to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), Japan’s lamb imports reached a record value of $168 million last year, up 26 percent year-over-year. Through May, imports were 43 percent ahead of last year’s pace in value at $95 million, while volume was up 28 percent to 12,265 metric tons. Australia is the top supplier of lamb to Japan with 60 percent market share so far this year, while New Zealand supplied 38 percent.
“U.S. lamb has been well-received in other upscale markets, including Taiwan, which reopened to U.S. lamb in 2016. But Japan presents an exceptional opportunity for significant export growth,” said USMEF Chairman Dennis Stiffler in a statement.
In early 2013, Japan began readmitting red meat imports, such as beef, from the United States.
“There is great demand for high-quality, grain-fed red meat in Japan, as demonstrated by the success of U.S. beef and pork,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF president and CEO. “The U.S. lamb industry is anxious to capitalize on opportunities in Japan’s restaurant and retail sectors, and USMEF is eager to begin promoting U.S. lamb in Japan.”