Farming minister George Eustice will tell meat producers at the National Sheep Event in Worcestershire, UK, that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed relaxing import restrictions on UK lamb.
The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) hailed the move as a “significant step forward”. It means British lamb could be available to US consumers by early 2017.
The move could mean British lamb is back on the US menu for the first time in over 25 years, after the US imposed a ban British beef and lamb imports in 1989, following an outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
Speaking at the National Sheep Association show, the minister is expected to say: “The US decision to press ahead with proposals to lift export restrictions on British lamb is great news for our 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 submitted a 1,000-page report to the USDA outlining the high standards of safety in the UK lamb industry. The USDA has duly published proposals for relaxing trade restrictions on British lamb.
National Farmers’ Union livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said: “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.”