Farmers welcome Japan move to end British beef and lamb ban
Scottish farmers and food producers have welcomed news that Japan is to lift a long-standing ban on British beef and lamb.
The move came ahead of a meeting between Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Theresa May in London.
Japan introduced the ban on imports in 1996 following the outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
Downing Street said Japan's decision to open its domestic market would be worth £127m to UK farmers over five years.
NFU Scotland said the move could boost the sector, particularly producers of the Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb brands, which have European Protected Geographic Indication (PGI) status.
NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said: "Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb are world-famous products which deservedly command a premium and are both underpinned by PGI designation which protects them from imitation.
"Clearly there will be market opportunities in Japan for high-value, high-quality beef and lamb backed by the unique provenance that Scotland has to offer.
"While our primary focus is on our home market where we enjoy strong continued support from Scottish and British shoppers who value locally-sourced food, tapping into luxury markets abroad can drive much-needed added value into the livestock sector."
Tom Gibson, head of market development at Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), described Japan's announcement as "great news for the Scottish red meat industry".
He added: "Many Scottish red meat processors have been gearing up to gain the necessary accreditation to export Scotch Beef PGI and Scotch Lamb PGI to Japan ahead of this announcement, and we have been working hard to develop partnerships between Japanese importers and Scottish exporters.
"I am confident that there will be significant opportunities for Scottish companies to develop and grow business in this new market."
According to Scottish government figures in 2018, there are 17,963 sheep and cattle farms in Scotland and a total of 432,812 beef cows.
Three years ago, Scotch beef returned to the menu in Canada for the first time in nearly 20 years, following the lifting of import restrictions from the European Union.
Canadian officials had banned European red meat imports following the BSE outbreak.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said the lifting of the ban presented exciting opportunities for Scottish exporters.
He said: "I am aware there are a number of Scottish plants already showing an interest in exporting to Japan and I am delighted they are looking to take up this great opportunity for expanding into an exciting new marketplace."