US market to open for UK lamb exports from January

UK lamb can be exported to the US from 3 January 2022 onwards.

This will lift a United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ban which has been in place since for more than 20 years following bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) outbreaks in the UK.

Defra announced on Friday (3 December) that the small ruminant rule, which had previously restricted access for all UK sheepmeat to the US market, will be amended.

See also: Why autumn lambing is a good fit for mixed farm

The US previously lifted its ban on UK beef imports in September 2020 and UK beef is now being exported to the US. The first nine months of 2021 saw 1,554 tonnes of UK beef exported to the US, according to AHDB and HMRC data.

International trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “The UK exported £436.4m worth of lamb to the world last year and more than £29m worth of meat to the US. We want those numbers to grow, and this win will help achieve that.”

AHDB international market development director Phil Hadley says the US market for UK lamb is estimated to be worth £37m over the first five years of trade.

“The announcement means lamb exports will complement our existing pork and beef trade to the US, which was worth an impressive £22m to industry in the first nine months of 2021,” said Dr Hadley.

“Gaining access to the US further cements our reputation as being world renowned producers of high-quality lamb and we look forward to seeing our products on US plates in the New Year.”

US lamb market

The US is a net importer of lamb, with imports accounting for around half of its supply.

Australia and New Zealand already have market access for lamb into the US, and they account for around 75% and 24% of total sheep meat imports respectively, according to the USDA.

US lamb consumption is very low, with annual per capita consumption around 0.5kg, compared to the UK where the figure is around 4.1kg.

Size of US market – 330 million consumers

Potential market value estimate for UK – £37m (first five years)

Industry views

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “We are extremely pleased to hear this ruling as the small ruminant rule has blocked the way for exports of lamb and sheep genetics to the US for many years. This will help expand trade opportunities for UK sheep farmers and exporters and should see British sheepmeat having access to the US as early as spring 2022, to complement their domestic product and that of other nations.”

NFU president Minette Batters says this is the sort of export opportunity we need to see the government pursuing and is something they strongly support, and which is a positive step for Britain’s lamb producers.

The NFU would urge the government to continue opening up new markets around the world.


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