DUBLIN – Japan has lifted a 13-year ban on imports of Irish beef effective immediately.

The announcement came during a major trade mission to Japan which includes a special program for Irish food exporters seeking market share in Japan. The short-term financial impact is estimated between €12 and €15 million with potential for significant growth over time.

"It is clear that the agri-food sector is a significant driver of economic growth and employment in the Irish economy," said Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in a statement. "With Food Harvest 2020 we have established a vision for the sector, which is being delivered on through a positive and collaborative approach from government, farmers and industry.

"Today's announcement is another key milestone for the Irish agri-food sector, and the beef sector in particular," he added. "It is a sign of international confidence the quality of Irish food and is a further vindication of Ireland's focus on quality and sustainability."

Japan has banned beef from Europe since 2000 following an outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Ireland is now one of three European countries permitted to export beef Japan, including France and Denmark. The decision was made after a meeting with Prime Minister Enda Kenny, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.

Coveney said: "Japan is a sophisticated market with sophisticated consumer, who are seeking beef product which Ireland can provide. Japan also sets a benchmark for food safety standards, and for that reason access for Irish beef is very significant from a reputational point of view.

"The landmark decision taken today is the fruit of detailed technical negotiations between my Department and its counterpart in Tokyo over the last two years, and is true testament to the quality of our beef output," Coveney added. "Today's announcement proves yet again the value of investing in our sustainability and traceability systems and more importantly being able to verify these claims to global customers."