US market to open doors to UK lamb from 2022

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Environment secretary George Eustice welcomed news the UK is to resume lamb exports to US
Environment secretary George Eustice welcomed news the UK is to resume lamb exports to US

Related tags Supply chain Meat & Seafood

Exports of British lamb to the US market will resume from next year after more than two decades of restrictions.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has confirmed it has amended the rule currently preventing UK lamb imports from entering the US. The amended 'small ruminant rule' will come into force on 3 January 2022.

It is estimated that this market will be worth £37m in the first five years of trade, giving UK lamb access to more than 300m US consumers. 

Earlier this year, it was revealed that the end of the ban on British lamb could mean a £20m boost every year for Welsh food and farming​. 

Environment secretary George Eustice and his US counterpart secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack, committed in a telephone call to continue to work together in the months ahead.

Easing of restrictions

The update comes after President Biden committed to lift the ban on British lamb during the Prime Minister’s visit to the White House in September, and follows an easing of restrictions on British beef exports earlier this year.

Environment secretary George Eustice said the move followed years of negotiations that built on the successful resumption of UK beef exports to the US. 

“UK lamb is renowned for its high quality, food safety and welfare standards. Millions of US consumers will now be able to enjoy British lamb as early as next year,”​ said Eustice.  

“The US market for lamb is growing as consumer trends change and there are now new opportunities for farmers and meat processors in this market."

Small ruminant rule

The small ruminant rule previously restricted access to the US market for all sheep meat from the UK, as well as a number of other countries including EU member states and Canada.

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs said it would work with the Department for International Trade, UK food safety authorities and US counterparts in completing the final steps to achieve the full resumption of UK lamb exports to the US.

International trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “This is fantastic news that brings UK farmers a step closer to putting their first-class lamb on American menus for the first time in more than 20 years.

“The UK exported £436.4m worth of lamb to the world last year and over £29m worth of meat to the US. We want those numbers to grow and this win will help achieve that.”

Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board international market development director Phil Hadley welcomed the news. 

Valuable opportunity

“The US market is estimated to be worth £37m over the first five years of trade and presents a further valuable opportunity for the UK sheep sector,”​ said Hadley. 

“Today’s 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. 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.”

The move was also welcomed from the National Farmers Union (NFU). NFU president Minette Batters said: “This is exactly the sort of export opportunity we need to see the Government pursuing and is something we strongly support. This is a positive step for Britain’s lamb producers and we would urge the Government to continue opening up new markets around the world​.”

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