The US Department of Agriculture has announced that the Japanese market is now open to US beef.

“I’m very pleased to announce that the Japanese market is now open to US beef products,” said agriculture secretary Mike Johanns. “Resuming beef trade with Japan is great news for American producers and Japanese consumers, as well as an important step toward normalized trade based on scientifically sound, internationally recognized standards.”

“Reopening the Japanese market to US beef has been a top priority for me since becoming secretary, and I want to thank the many people and organizations who have been instrumental in this success. First and foremost, my thanks to President Bush for being personally and directly engaged in this effort. I want to thank my colleagues in the President’s cabinet, secretaries Rice, Snow, Gutierrez and Ambassador Portman, as well as ambassadors Baker and Schieffer, for making this issue a centerpiece of their discussions with Japan.

“Japan’s action today provides sets an excellent example for other countries in Asia whose markets remain closed,” he said. “Now is the time for Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, China, Singapore and others to open their markets to US beef. I urge all countries to take a science-based approach.”

“American producers are proud of our safe, high-quality beef products and we greatly value the opportunity to promote the safety of our products to consumers in Japan and around the world,” he said. “As I have said many times throughout this process, our goal is the resumption of normal beef trade throughout the world and we will continue to aggressively work toward that objective.”

Under the agreement announced on Sunday, the United States is able to export beef from cattle 20 months of age and younger to Japan. More than 94% of total US ruminant and ruminant products, with a total export value of US$1.7bn in 2003, are now eligible for export to Japan. In 2003, the United States exported US$1.4bn worth of beef and beef products to Japan. Prior to the December 2003 discovery of the first BSE-infected cow in the United States, the US exported beef and beef products to 119 countries. With the opening of Japan, 67 countries have now established trade to at least selected US beef and beef products.