Over the last several years there has been increasing pressure on most western industrialised countries to liberalise trade for food and agricultural products and yet the full implications of freer trade are not always well understood. This paper attempts to fill this gap by reviewing the developments in the Japanese beef market following import liberalisation. We conclude that the Japanese beef market has experienced major structural changes over a relatively short period as a result of liberalising beef imports. The most apparent impact has been on Japanese consumers who have benefited from lower retail beef prices and a greater variety of beef cuts to choose from. The types and quality of beef imported have also changed and consequently major suppliers have adapted their production systems and their products to the changing taste and preferences of Japanese consumers. Beef exporters to Japan, on the other hand, have experienced declining wholesale prices but have, nevertheless, benefited from the growing size of the market. Developments in the wider economy, such as changes in the retail distribution systems and the exchange rate have also influenced the beef sector.


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