The Government of Japan has announced its plans to end the ban on UK beef and lamb products, which has been in place since 1996 following the outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also know as mad cow disease.

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare announced the decision ahead of the meeting between Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

The move to end the ban could be worth  £127m to British farmers over a period of five years.

During the meeting, the UK and Japan leaders will focus on economic opportunities as the UK leaves the European Union (EU).

Theresa May said: “The UK and Japan are natural partners. We face many of the same challenges, but also the same immense opportunities.

“The move to end the ban could be worth  £127m to British farmers over a period of five years.”

“By agreeing to forge a new, dynamic partnership, we not only back some of the most cutting-edge sectors in our economy, but will also improve people’s lives and shape the 21st century for the better. This is our modern Industrial Strategy in action.”

UK exports of red meat products crossed £1.2bn in 2017, according to Revenue and Customs Statistics.

Consuming animals infected with BSE has been linked to an incurable Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease that destroys brain tissue in humans. Beef from cattle younger than 30 months will be approved for import to Japan.

In November 2018, Japan’s food safety experts panel recommended lifting its age restrictions on US beef imports.

In June 2018, China announced its decision to lift the two-decade ban on beef imports from the UK that was originally imposed as a result of an outbreak of BSE.

The move provided a major boost for British producers and was projected to be worth an estimated £250m in the first five years alone.