… US presses Japan for unilateral agriculture concessions ...
Japan moves closer to removal of 30-month rule
Ken Wilcock, Queensland Country Life (Australia)
14 May 2019
AS covered recently in this column, the US beef industry is eagerly anticipating a favourable outcome from the negotiations currently under way between Japan and the US for a bi-lateral trade agreement.
At the very least they expect to recover to equal footing status what was lost to them when President Donald Trump pulled out of the Trans Pacific Partnership deal, a very substantial tariff reduction schedule for beef.
But while those proceedings continue there is another issue under separate consideration which will bestow further benefit to the US if a decision falls in their favour.
It is the 30-month cattle age restriction rule imposed on the sourcing of beef in the US for export to Japan.
In 2003 after discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the US, Japan placed an import ban on US beef.
Japan reopened its market to US beef in 2006 with a 21-month cattle age limit but extended the limit to 30 months in 2013.
Further consideration on the age-limit matter falls to Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) which recently closed a public comment period as part of its review.
Those comments will now be considered and while there is no timetable for a resolution one way or another, there is very strong expectation especially from the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) that the 30-month restriction will be removed and soon.
USMEF estimates that removal of the age restriction will increase muscle-cut beef exports by 6-13 per cent and variety meats (offal) by 25pc. All up, they estimate this single factor has the capacity to lift US beef exports overall by 7-10pc worth US$150-200 million a year.
That it is not a greater amount stems from the fact that 80pc of current US beef production comes from fed cattle younger than 30 months of age. Nevertheless, cattle over 30 months will yield additional quantities of short plate, chuck eye rolls, short ribs, middle meats, clods and briskets.
But the biggest impact will be in offals. It is Japan's liking for offal that will see greater volumes of tongue, mountain chain tripe, outside skirt and hanging tenders harvested from cattle aged over 30 months.
Commenting on the market growth this issue represents, USMEF president and CEO Dan Halstrom was careful to link its full potential to what USMEF sees as much-needed tariff relief.
Highlighting the tariff gap between the US and competitor CPTPP countries he said that to fully capitalise on the opportunity, the over-30-month beef cuts and offals need to be on a level playing field in Japan as with all US red meat products.
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