China, Japan make progress on lifting beef import ban: report

By Huang Ge Source:Global Times Published: 2019/4/15 21:13:40

Several cuts of Japanese beef shown at a market. Photo: IC

China and Japan have reached a substantial consensus on an animal health quarantine agreement, which is one of the conditions for lifting a ban on China's imports of Japanese beef, news site reported on Monday.

Industry analysts said it showed China's further opening-up of the agricultural market, and Japanese beef will help meet the rising demand for premium beef from Chinese consumers.

Other procedures are still needed, but this is what Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono noted "a vital step forward lifting the ban," the report said.

The agreement was made at a ministerial-level economic discussion over the weekend. 

China banned imports of beef from Japan in 2001 when a number of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy cases were found in the country.

Tanaka Kazuhiro, an official from the Agricultural Policy Division of Kagoshima prefecture, southwestern Japan, told the Global Times that "[we are] very pleased to know the two countries have discussed the agreement to lift the ban, and expect local beef could be exported to China as soon as possible."

Kagoshima prefecture has large beef production and can stably export premium beef to China, Kazuhiro said.

The lifting of the ban is a reciprocal move that shows China's further opening-up of its agricultural market, said Ma Wenfeng, a senior analyst at Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultants.

As the quality of Japanese beef is quite good, China can acquire some advanced experience in quality management from Japanese suppliers, Ma told the Global Times on Monday. 

If Japanese beef is allowed to be exported to China, Japanese farmers will benefit as they can expand the Chinese market thanks to local consumers' rising demand, Li Guoxiang, a research fellow at the Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday.

"Importing beef from Japan will diversify China's import sources rather than hit domestic suppliers, and will help increase the supply of high-end beef to Chinese consumers," Li said. 

Japanese beef must meet some inspection and quarantine standards before it is allowed to be imported, Li said.

"Japanese beef tasted good when I tried some in Tokyo during my visit there last year," a 20-something white-collar worker surnamed Chen told the Global Times on Monday. "I would like to buy it if Japanese beef enters the Chinese market, but it's not cheap," he said.

China imported 1.04 million tons of beef in 2018, the first time since 2012 that such purchases exceeded 1 million tons, Chinese customs data showed. China's major import sources include Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and Argentina.

China announced the lifting of a 13-year ban on imports of beef from the US in 2017. But industry insiders said that US beef had underperformed market expectations because it will take time to build sales channels. Imports were also affected by China-US trade tensions.

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