British beef and lamb will return to Russian dinner plates after authorities there finally said yes to exports after agreeing to lift their 16-year ban.
Russia banned British beef imports in the wake of the 1996 bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis.
Environment secretary Owen Paterson said: “British food is recognised around the world for using quality ingredients, for rigorous production standards, and for reliable traceability. This deal is further evidence of international confidence in what British producers have to offer.”
UK food exports topped £10bn recently. Last year food and drink exports climbed by 9% to reach £18.2bn.
A worldwide ban on British live cattle, meat and products was lifted by the EU in 2006. But Russia kept the ban in place, attributing the decision to worries about BSE.
Worth between £80M and £115M
The agreement could be worth between £80M and £115M to the British livestock industry over the next three years. Beef exports are due to start from a small number of plants in the new year, while lamb exports are expected to start in April.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) welcomed the agreement. Its chief livestock advisor Peter Garbutt told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “This is great news. But there will be a lot of work to do in getting the certification to exploit the export market.”
NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said: “This is a massive boost for our industry, again demonstrating that British produce is in demand on both home and export markets.
“Russia is one of the largest global importers of beef and although there will still be a lot of work to do, the potential demand for our beef is huge. The work of our levy bodies and government departments in continuing to open up these export markets is vital and will go a long way towards ensuring a competitive and sustainable beef and lamb industry.”