Farming minister George Eustice is to confirm the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has published proposals for consultation to relax import restrictions on lamb at the NSA Sheep Event today.
Earlier this month, Farmers Guardian reported restrictions may be lifted following a 60-day consultation period. The ban was placed on exports of live sheep, goats and associated products to the US from countries at risk of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSE) in 1989.
British lamb could be available for US consumers by early 2017 and the industry could be worth £35million to the UK economy.
Defra will now co-ordinate UK farming industry comment and has been liaising with relevant US trade associations to gain support.
Farming Minister George Eustice will tell the NSA Sheep Event: “The US decision to press ahead with proposals to lift export restrictions on British lamb is great news for our farmers who are one step closer to gaining access to the lucrative American market, worth an estimated £35 million a year.
"Our world-leading food and drink industry is a key part of our nation’s economic success and in addition to forging good trade deals with our European neighbours, we want to secure more export opportunities in the States as well as with our close friends in the Commonwealth and other countries around the world.”
A 1,000-page dossier was submitted to the USDA detailing the safety and quality of British beef and lamb ahead of trade talks in April.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said it could be a real opportunity for the sector.
“Increasing the number of export destinations for British sheep meat is vital for our industry, ensuring there is demand for our quality product in as many markets as possible.
“It is very encouraging that the USA is interested in opening its doors.
“Lamb sales in the USA have dropped over the years, as a result of a falling domestic production base, and NSA would like to see British lamb exported and promoted to boost consumption.”
NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said: “Re-opening the US beef and lamb market to UK imports would be a positive move and an important confidence building measure for the British livestock sector.
“The US is potentially a huge and affluent market that has strong links to the UK as we share history and language.”