Japan announced Jan. 12 the partial reopening of its domestic market to imports of U.S. and Canadian beef. Closed to both countries since 2003 — Canada in May and the U.S. in December — trade will be allowed in beef products from cattle 20 months of age and younger.

The news was trumpeted during a flurry of Dec. 12 morning press conferences and news releases. Phil Seng, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) president and CEO, told reporters the first shipment of U.S. beef since the ban was lifted was slated to hit Narita Airport in Tokyo on Dec. 17.

Jim McAdams, a Texas producer and president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, called the announcement, “Christmas come early.”

“The process has been lengthy but we're eager to give the Japanese consumer a chance to enjoy U.S. beef once again. In the past, Japan was our top export market and we're looking forward to regaining it,” he said.

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