The comments came as Dai Davies, chairman of Welsh red meat promotion agency Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), addressed European MPs at a breakfast organised by the Farming Union of Wales (FUW), the independent body that represents Welsh farmers.
Davies welcomed recent positive comments from the US embassy in London, when the Counsellor for Agricultural Affairs Daryl Brehm talked about the progress of World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks between the USA and EU. The ban was originally imposed in the 1980s in the wake of the UK BSE crisis, but Davies pointed out there was no reason to maintain it, now that the issues and status of disease in the UK and USA are similar.
He said: “HCC is already planning for the day when free trade will resume with our American friends and we will be ready to move into the USA market with our premium-quality PGI Welsh Lamb as soon as possible.”
A spokesman for HCC confirmed that the Welsh Government has made approaches to the USDA about the importation of Welsh Lamb, but that this is currently at a very early stage.
Davies said that the principality was now the largest European exporter of lamb and sheep meat to countries outside the European Union, having opened up markets to Canada and Dubai, and seen sales to Hong Kong and Singapore grow by 35% and 80% respectively, during 2010. Negotiations are also under way with the key Chinese market.
He said: “I am optimistic that we will have good news on this front sooner rather than later, especially since HCC accompanied Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos on a trade mission to Beijing last year.”
However, the primary markets for Welsh lamb still lies within the European Union, with France, Italy, Germany and the UK the key destinations. The total volume of lamb exported from Wales in 2010 was 31,200t, valued at £111.7m or €134m and are expected to be higher for 2011.