Trade Secretary Liz Truss has warned it is ‘dangerous’ for the UK sheep sector to be so heavily reliant on the EU market for lamb exports.
The Minister said she thought it was important from a resilience perspective for the UK to open up new markets for British lamb.
“Currently, most of the lamb we export is exported to the EU, but we are in a position of essentially having all our eggs in one basket,” she told a ConservativeHome fringe event at Tory Party conference this week (September 4).
“I do think we need to find more alternative markets for our lamb industry. The US is the second-largest importer of lamb in the world.
“We need to get that ban lifted. The Middle East is another strong opportunity for UK lamb.
“It is very dangerous when our farmers only have one main market they can access. If something does happen, that makes life a lot more difficult.”
Ms Truss went on to say she hoped to emulate agriculture exporting nations such as Australia and New Zealand, which have built up a ‘web of trade links around the world’.
National Sheep Association chief executive Phil Stocker told Farmers Guardian he agreed there were valuable opportunities for British lamb in new markets and that it was important to overturn the small ruminant rule, which prevents the UK from exporting any lamb to the USA.
“We are working hard to get a global reputation for a great product with great credentials – this will be the foundation of our industry,” he said.
“But this needs to be in addition to ongoing trade into the EU and should not be seen as a trade-off against getting a free trade deal between the UK and the EU.
“The EU is on our doorstep; we can supply it easily with fresh product without having to involve air freight, it is established and it balances the 60-65 per cent of our production sold into the most stable and sustainable market we have – our domestic market.”