Global UK pork exports were worth over £421 million to the country’s economy in 2020, reaching 75 export markets worldwide. According to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), access to the Mexican market is estimated to be worth £50 million to UK pork producers over the first five years of trade.
“Access to the Mexican market, with its substantial demand for high-quality pork, will be a welcome boost for our pig farmers and producers,” Department of Environment Food and Rurual Affairs Secretary of State George Eustice said. “This is a significant development, which will reinforce our global reputation for quality food and drink.”
UK ‘globally recognised’ for food standards, animal welfare
Hailing the news as ‘another success’ for UK exporters – who have gained access for UK beef to the USA, UK poultry, beef and lamb to Japan, and pork to Taiwan since the country left the European Union – the Defra minister highlighted the quality of UK pork production.
“As a world leader in animal welfare, UK pork is globally recognised for its provenance, quality and traceability. Through the GREAT Britain & Northern Ireland campaign, the UK government aims to raise the international profile and reputation of food and drink from across the UK and help more food and drink companies export their produce abroad.”
“The UK is proud of our high standards of food safety and the quality of food we are able to produce. Gaining access for the export of British pork to Mexico represents yet another success for British Industry and continues to enhance our global reputation for excellence,” echoed UK Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Richard Irvine.
“Pork from the UK is trusted and favoured worldwide due to its exceptional quality, high welfare and food safety standards. This new approval will offer a wealth of opportunities for our exporters and is a testament to the hard work of industry and government to open new markets as we look to the future,” AHDB International Market Development Director Dr Phil Hadley added.
The deal with Mexico followed ‘over four years’ of negotiations and inspections. The Mexican National Department for Health, Safety and Agricultural and Food Quality (SENASICA) inspected ‘numerous premises’ in February 2020. This led to a decision to approve four processing facilities and four associated cold stores in England and Wales.
These inspections were led by Defra and the UK Export Certification Partnership (UKECP) and hosted by the AHDB, with support from UK national and devolved government departments and agencies, including DIT Mexico.
Growing trade with ‘dynamic’ economies
The UK and Mexico have also committed to begin negotiating a new and ‘ambitious’ free trade agreement this year, which – the UK government said - will go ‘much further’ than the existing deal.
The country is also working towards the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific partnership (CPTPP), an ‘increasingly influential trade network’ of 11 ‘dynamic’ economies spanning from the Indo-Pacific region to the Americas.
“This is a huge win for our farmers and food producers,” International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said.
“British businesses can look forward to the benefits of a new and ambitious trade agreement with Mexico which we will be negotiating this year, and wins like these are an important step towards our accession to CPTPP that will see our global trade hit new heights.”
The National Pig Association, which represents the UK pork sector, said it was hopeful that further free trade talks with Mexico would bring additional benefits.
NPA senior policy adviser Charlie Dewhirst welcomed the announcement. "This is something we asked the Government for in our trade submission on Mexico, so we are pleased to see this announcement, which will bring some fresh opportunities for UK pork producers," he said.
"We hope that negotiations for a new trade deal with Mexico will bring further opportunities through lower tariffs and SPS access for fifth quarter cuts.”
British exports rebounding in non-EU markets
According to the latest trade figures from the UK Food and Drink Federation, exports to non-EU countries have rebounded in recent quarters and are now almost back to pre-COVID levels.
Sales of UK food and drink to non-EU countries were up 13%, accounting for 46.6% of all UK food and drink exports in the first half of 2021, driven by a return to growth in China, Singapore, Australia, Japan and the Gulf region, the trade association revealed.
However, the FDF stressed that the loss of access to markets in the European Union has nevertheless hit UK exports hard. Overall sales of UK food and drink are down £2bn compared to pre-Covid levels, because of a sharp drop in sales to the EU, the organisation noted.
Dominic Goudie, Head of International Trade, the FDF, said: “The return to growth in exports to non-EU markets is welcome news, but it doesn’t make up for the disastrous loss of £2bn in sales to the EU. It clearly demonstrates the serious difficulties manufacturers in our industry continue to face and the urgent need for additional specialist support.
“At the same time, we are seeing labour shortages across the UK's farm-to-fork food and drink supply chain, resulting in empty spaces on UK shop shelves, disruptions to deliveries and decreased production. Unless steps are taken to address these issues, the ability of businesses to fulfil vital export orders will be impacted.”