US expected to give green light to British lamb imports
British lamb could soon be back on the menu in the US, with George Eustice, UK Minister for Farming, expected to announce today that the US is to relax import restrictions on British lamb.
The news comes as the US last week said that it is to change the regulations which restricted sheepmeat imports from the EU due to transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), known as scrapie in Ireland.
Eustice will be speaking at the National Sheep Association (NSA) Show in Worchestershire later today where it is expected that he will confirm that the USDA has published proposals for consultation on relaxing the restrictions.
It is understood that access to the US market for British lamb could generate an extra £35m (€41m) for the UK economy.
The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has said that this significant step forward means that British lamb is on track to be available for US consumers by early 2017.
The move is the latest in ongoing efforts to allow Britain’s farmers to start exporting sheepmeat to the United States’ 300m consumers.
DEFRA has said that a 1,000-page dossier was submitted to the USDA detailing the safety and quality of British beef and lamb ahead of April’s trade talks with US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in Washington.
Speaking at the NSA show today, Eustice is expected to say that the US decision to press ahead with proposals to lift export restrictions on British lamb is great news for British farmers who are one step closer to gaining access to the lucrative American market, worth an estimated £35m a year.
“Our world-leading food and drink industry is a key part of our nation’s economic success and in addition to forging good trade deals with our European neighbours, we want to secure more export opportunities in the States as well as with our close friends in the Commonwealth and other countries around the world.”
Defra is now co-ordinating UK farming industry comment for the 60-day consultation and liaising with relevant US trade associations to gain support for proposals.
NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker said that increasing the number of export destinations for British sheepmeat is vital for the industry, ensuring there is demand for British quality product in as many markets as possible.
“It is very encouraging that the USA is interested in opening its doors. Lamb sales in the USA have dropped over the years, as a result of a falling domestic production base, and NSA would like to see British lamb exported and promoted to boost consumption. It could be a real opportunity for our sector.”
National Farmers’ Union Livestock Board Chairman Charles Sercombe has said that re-opening the US beef and lamb market to UK imports would be a positive move and an important confidence building measure for the British livestock sector.
“The US is potentially a huge and affluent market that has strong links to the UK as we share history and language.”