Japan reopens its doors to imports of Canadian beef
It comes 20 years after mad cow diseases devastated the industry in Canada
Japan is lifting the last of its restrictions against Canadian beef, 20 years after BSE, often called mad cow disease, devastated this country's cattle industry.
According to the federal government Japan is reopening its doors to processed beef and beef patties from Canada.
The move puts an end to the market access barriers Japan put in place in 2003, after a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, was discovered in Alberta.
Around 40 countries closed their borders to Canadian beef during the height of the BSE crisis, resulting in billions of dollars in losses for the industry.
"It was just devastating," said Alberta rancher Erik Butters. "There were people who were very fearful they were going to lose their businesses and their houses."
Japan initially shut its border to all Canadian beef but has been lifting restrictions in stages over the years, most recently with its 2019 decision to begin accepting Canadian beef from cattle older than 30 months of age.
The federal government says Japan is now Canada's second-largest market for beef, with exports worth $518 million in 2022 largely due to Canada's preferential access under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
"This accomplishment ushers in a new era for Canada and its second-largest market for beef and beef products: expanding market access for Canadian exporters," a spokesperson with the government said in a statement.
"While also benefiting Japanese consumers who will have greater access to Canada's high-quality beef products."
The latest removal of restrictions is welcome news for Butters and marks the end of what he called a "long battle" that spanned two decades.
Economically, however, Butters doesn't think that it'll make much of a difference.
"The Japanese market is vital to us, however, we've been selling a lot of beef into the Japanese market for some years now — with the exception of these couple of named products," he said.
"I'm not sure that this is going to have a huge impact on what we've already been doing, but it's ... icing on the cake."
with files from Dave Gilson and The Canadian Press