UK beef could again enter US market
Published:  05 November, 2013

Beef from the UK could once again be imported into the US, following a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) decision to bring its bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) legislation in line with international standards.

New rules will mean beef and other bovine products from Europe will be eligible for US import, which has not been the case since 1997, following a BSE outbreak and a resulting ban.

The USDA revealed in a statement that it would modernise its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) import regulations for BSE. Regulations will now be based on internationally-accepted scientific literature and standards set by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), it said.

“This action will bring our BSE import regulations in line with international standards, which call for countries to base their trade policies on the actual risk of animals or products harbouring the disease,” said Dr John Clifford, APHIS deputy administrator and chief veterinary officer.

Meat bosses have hailed the announcement, with some predicting it to potentially be worth tens of millions of pounds to the UK’s economy.

Eblex head of trade development Peter Hardwick, said it was a positive move for the beef and lamb sector. “While there are high-value opportunities for beef and lamb in the US market, where we estimate the potential market to be in excess of £60m per annum, there are also wider implications for our trade relationships with other third-country markets.”

He added that third countries often take their lead from what the US does, and resuming trade between the EU and the US would “almost certainly” make way for positive outcomes when negotiating for market access.

Yet, he moved that there needed to be some perspective, as the matters were complex and “as it stands, there are currently no USDA-approved beef plants in the UK and exporting to the US will therefore not be immediate”.

However, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) chairman Jim McLaren said the re-opening of the market sent a clear message of the potential opportunities to the Scotch Beef industry. This sentiment was echoed by Scottish Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead, who said it was a massive breakthrough.

“I’m delighted that these long-standing trade barriers have been lifted. Scotch Beef has been off the menu in the USA for far too long and the re-opening of an extremely lucrative market is a tremendous opportunity to expand our beef exports and one which I am keen for the industry to grasp,” Lochhead said.

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, also welcomed the announcement and said it had come after years of lobbying.

Coveney said: “This issue was one of my priorities when I visited the US last year and I pushed the matter strongly with USDA Secretary of State Tom Vilsack and in meetings with senators. The decision provides an opportunity for Ireland to penetrate a sector of the US beef market which can reward top-quality, sustainably produced beef.”