JAPAN has lifted its two-decade ban on British beef and lamb, making it the latest country to open its market to UK imports, in what is predicted to be a multi-million pound boost to UK exporters.

The agreement, which was signed during the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe’s visit to the UK, is estimated to be worth a total of £127m to British farmers over the next five years – approximately £75m for beef and £52m for lamb.

Japan, a major importer of beef and a country with a growing demand for high quality lamb, has held a ban on UK products since the BSE epidemic in 1996.

After a series of negotiations between Japan and the UK officials, and an inspection of UK beef and lamb production systems in 2018, the ban was lifted lifted on January 10 with immediate effect.

The deal followed a year of global successes for UK exporters, with China also lifting its ban on UK beef, Taiwan opening its market to pork, and most recently India preparing to import UK sheep meat for the first time.

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.”

Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board 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, will create some exciting opportunities for our beef and sheep producers.”

NFU livestock board chairman Richard Findlay also supported the deal. He said: “This is clearly very positive news and a much needed boost for British beef and sheep producers.

“Currently, 90 per cent 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.”

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