Mexico officially opened its doors to British pork for the first time in a trade deal announced today (2 September), giving 130m more consumers access to the red meat. The EU struck a deal to supply Mexico with pork in 2018, but experts were confident UK pork could compete with EU supplies in the market.
Pork exports were worth more than £421m to the UK in 2020, reaching 75 export markets worldwide.
"Our market analysts have considered the market in Mexico," said AHDB international market development director Dr Phil Hadley in an AHDB podcast dissecting the agreement's importance. "They are an importer of pork; they buy product from the US, Canada and lots of other countries, so they are pork consumers with their own domestic production.
Hadley said UK pork would not necessarily be competing directly with US and Canadian product, as he saw a unique opportunity connected to added value pork products.
Offal and processed pork
"We estimate the value to the UK pork sector to be in the order of £50m over the first five years, so this is a significant opportunity for the sector. And of course it may lead to other things in terms of broadening the agreement out to include a broader range of products, including offal and processed pork products."
AHDB head of strategic insight Tom Forshaw added: "For Mexico in addition to around £830m-worth of pork imported every year, they also import a range of other animal products. Dairy imports tend to vary, but over the last three years total imports have averaged around £900m. Imports mainly consist of milk powders and cheeses, predominantly from the US.
"Mexico also imports not an insignificant amount of beef, with average imports over the last three years around 160,000 tonnes, although that import demand has been reducing recently. Again that major supplier to that Mexican beef market is the US."
Ana Fernanda, head of trade and investment, Guadalajara, Mexico and Latin America and the Caribbean food and drink sector lead, Department for International Trade, Mexico, said the commercial implications of the deal would take time to bed in. "But I do see that there is potential and interest to diversify the amount of imports from different countries."
Beef, poultry, lamb and pork gains elsewhere
The deal follows successes in gaining access for UK beef to the US, poultry, beef and lamb to Japan, and pork to Taiwan.
Announcing the development, George Eustice, secretary of state for the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), said the latest development was good news for farmers. “Access to the Mexican market, with its substantial demand for high-quality pork, will be a welcome boost for our pig farmers and producers."
UK pork is globally recognised for its provenance, quality and traceability. Through the GREAT Britain & Northern Ireland campaign, the Government aims to raise the international profile and reputation of food and drink from across the UK and help more suppliers export their food and drink overseas.
Four processing facilities
The development follows more than four years of negotiations and inspections. The Mexican National Department for Health, Safety and Agricultural and Food Quality (SENASICA) inspected numerous premises throughout the UK during a visit which occurred in February 2020, which led to a decision to approve four processing facilities and four associated cold stores in England and Wales.
The inspections were led by DEFRA and the UK Export Certification Partnership (UKECP) and hosted by AHDB, with support from UK national and devolved government departments and agencies.
The UK and Mexico have committed to begin negotiating a new and ambitious free trade agreement this year, which will go much further than the existing deal. The negotiations will complement the UK's accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific partnership (CPTPP), a trade network of 11 economies stretching from the Indo-Pacific region to the Americas.
International trade secretary Liz Truss said the breakthrough was 'a huge win for farmers and food producers'. “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.”
Pork from the UK was highly esteemed globally for its exceptional quality, high welfare and food safety standards, AHDB's Hadley said. “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,” he added.