It could bring opportunities for beef, pork and dairy exports
European farmers have welcomed an EU agreement on free trade with Japan, which could boost British beef, pork and dairy exports.
A deal in principle has been formally agreed which paves the way for tariff free access to the ‘highly protected’ Japanese market.
European farming group Copa and Cogeca secretary-general Pekka Pesonen said he was hopeful the deal would deliver a better income for farmers.
“An ambitious trade deal could benefit both economies which are based on high value products. In particular, we see opportunities for the European meat and dairy products sectors from opening the Japanese market, as well as for wine.”
British farmers could benefit from greater exports of beef, pork and dairy to the country, according to AHDB head of exports Peter Hardwick.
“We already export some pork, but it is only a small amount. It was about 1,500 tonnes a tiny amount compared to China,” he said.
“We currently export loins, bellies and tender loins. It is a market for high value cuts as well as some fifth quarter.
“For cheese, it is a niche market. Culturally, they do not eat much cheese.
“But if you go in the major supermarket, there is cheese there including some British cheese.”
But Brexit could cause some complications with the UK only included in the deal as an EU member state.
“We will be part of the agreement probably in time to see it gratified,” he said.
“What is not clear is how straightforward it is to have a conversation about a deal with just the UK. It could be very straightforward.
“Many people will say the UK on its own may be more agile to agree these deals. I certainly hope so.”
It came as a delegation from Japan visited the UK this week as the industry looked to reopen the market to UK beef exports more than 20 years after the BSE outbreak.
Five visiting officials from Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and its Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare toured farms, laboratories and abattoirs to learn about the country’s food hygiene controls.
AHDB’s International Market Development Director Phil Hadley said: “We are thrilled to have welcomed this delegation from Japan. It represents another important step for UK beef on the global stage.
“Japan is a lucrative market for specific premium beef products and this visit has the potential to create a number of exciting opportunities for UK exporters.
“We look forward to hearing from the delegation and learning what this inspection will mean for quality UK beef exports to Japan in the years to come.”
Farming Minister George Eustice welcomed the visit and said: “The UK’s beef sector is a global success story – worth more than £2.8 billion in production with exports going to 84 countries around the world.
"Opening the market to Japan could boost the industry by an estimated £15 million each year, driving growth for our farmers and producers and increasing our global reputation for great taste and quality.”