Japan lifts ban on Irish beef
Ireland's two billion euro beef business has been given a massive boost after Japan lifted a ban on imports from Ireland.
Twelve years after the country stopped taking Irish produce on the back of the BSE scandal, the Government announced markets were re-opening.
The announcement was made on day two of an official trip to Japan by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Agriculture and Food Simon Coveney after they met Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.
President of the Irish Farmers' Association John Bryan said the re-opening of the Japanese market is a very significant and positive development.
"This sends a strong signal to other markets that our beef adheres to the highest standards in the world," he said.
The IFA said the main Japanese demand from Ireland will be for mountain chain and tongue, with the potential to export up to 15 million euro a year.
"It is clear that the agri food sector is a significant driver of economic growth and employment in the Irish economy," Mr Kenny said.
"Today's announcement is another key milestone for the Irish agri food sector, and the beef sector in particular. It is a sign of international confidence in the quality of Irish food and is a further vindication of Ireland's focus on quality and sustainability."
The re-opening of the significant Japanese market followed detailed technical negotiations between the Department of Agriculture and Food and authorities in Tokyo over the last two years.
Mr Coveney said: "Japan is a sophisticated market with sophisticated consumers, who are seeking beef product which Ireland can provide.
"Japan also sets a benchmark for food safety standards, and for that reason access for Irish beef is very significant from a reputational point of view."
Cormac Healy of Meat Industry Ireland, part of the Ibec lobby group, was in Tokyo for the announcement.
"The positive decision by the Japanese authorities to reopen their market for Irish beef is important in its own right for this market and will hopefully be a significant step towards access for Irish beef and lamb to markets in this region of the world," he said.