After more than 20 years, trade officials in Japan announced the country reopened its borders to lamb and beef exports from the United Kingdom, which is estimated to be worth more than $146 million in the next five years. The ban was imposed in 1996, after bovine spongiform encephalopathy was discovered in UK cattle. The agreement, effective Jan. 10, follows years of negotiations between the two countries and multiple inspection visits by Japan’s officials, including a 2018 inspection visit hosted by the UK Export Certification Partnership, Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency, Food Standards Agency, Food Standards Scotland, DAERA and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

The development comes as good news to beef and lamb exporters in the UK. Officials say expanding exports to Japan will be a windfall throughout the supply chain, especially for beef producers in Northern Ireland and Scotland as well as lamb producers in Wales.

“This is clearly very positive news and a much-needed boost for British beef and sheep producers, said Richard Findlay, NFU livestock board chairman.

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

The deal was signed by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and British Prime Minister Theresa May during Shinzō’s recent visit to the UK. In the first five years of access, exports of beef are estimated to be valued at more than $86 million and about $60 million for lamb.

Officials said producers can begin exporting as soon as the administrative listing process is completed.

 “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,” said George Eustice, farming minister.