ANALYSIS - Establishing sanitary protocols for the whole of the UK will be the key to re-establishing exports for both beef and lamb to the US.
Stan Phillips, Agricultural Counsellor at the US Embassy in London, speaking at the AHDB Beef and Lamb annual conference in Warwickshire, said that while Ireland had quickly jumped onto the process to access the US market for beef as soon as the US had lifted its objections over BSE, the UK had sought to put in place a comprehensive agreement for both beef and lamb.
He said that the UK had requested access not only for beef but also for lamb.
And it had also called for access for each part of the UK – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“The UK is going through the process, but it is a long process to work things out,” Mr Phillips said.
He said that main sticking point was the access for lamb, as the US BSE protocol did not apply to small ruminants and the USDA is at present working to put a specific protocol in place.
However, he said that there was potential for good exports of high quality lamb from the UK to the US.
“There is not a lot of sheep production in the US and it creates a lot of opportunities,” Mr Phillips said.
“Consumption has jumped up to 333 million pounds which means that more imports are coming in.”
This he said was largely because beef prices had been rising caused by a decrease in the beef herd because of drought.
In all, 80 per cent of the imports come from Australia, followed by New Zealand as the next largest exporter.
“There are some differences that the UK can take advantage of. In the US we produce a very meaty animal,” he said.
“The high quality cut market could be where the UK could position itself for imports.”
T-TIP agreement could improve beef economics
Mr Phillips said that with regard to US beef exports to the EU, the concerns over the use of hormones in beef production had been a sticking point in the past that had been overcome by quotas for high quality beef.
However, other countries had used the same quota system to access the EU market and now the US was using less than 50 per cent of the quota.
“The US industry was concerned that it was not delivering what it should,” Mr Phillips told the conference.
This shortfall was one of the reasons the T-TIP Transatlantic trade agreement was being negotiated with the EU.
He said the transatlantic alliance would spur economic growth in both the US and the EU and serve as a model for the rest of the world.
However, he added that the negotiations were only in their 11th round and that there was still a long way to go.
Mr Phillips said that a successful outcome to the negotiations was important to US farmers because there are 2.2 million farms in the United States with 87 per cent family owned and last year the US exported more than $140 billion worth of agricultural products.
He added that one in three acres in the US is planted for export and 31 per cent of gross farm income comes directly from exports and 23 per cent of raw US farm products are exported each year.