HCC21010 - British Shoppers Find Love For Lamb in 2020

Source: HCC 

The weak pound could help exporters crack the American market

The long wait for Americans hankering for a slice of British lamb has ended this week, with the first consignment in over two decades arriving from across the pond from Dunbia’s site in Carmarthenshire, Wales.

The US last year ended a long ban on UK lamb, opening what British officials and the national meat industry hope could be sales worth up to £37m over the next five years.

Recently appointed trade secretary Kemi Badenoch said the revival of transatlantic lamb exports was “fantastic news for our farmers” who could “sell to a consumer market of over 300 million people” and “support jobs and growth in a vital British industry”.

Badenoch’s cabinet colleague Ranil Jayawardena, George Eustice’s replacement as environment secretary, added the government hoped to “continue to secure more opportunities for our farmers and food producers to benefit from new markets”.

The news was welcomed by National Sheep Association CEO Phil Stocker, who said the reopening of exports was “fantastic news” and hailed the work done by ministers and levy body AHDB in negotiating market access.

Phil Hadley, AHDB’s international market development director, said that getting the US to drop the ban took “years of negotiations and hard work by AHDB, UK government and the wider industry”.

AHDB in July worked with five “leading” US-based importers to explore opportunities for UK lamb, bringing the visiting delegation to an NSA event in Malvern.

However, the US has also permitted the UK’s neighbours in the EU to resume exports across the Atlantic, with Irish exporters among those hoping to see their lamb make its way across the Atlantic by early next year.

While exporters from Europe, the UK included, could struggle in the short term to carve out market share from dominant Australian and New Zealand suppliers, the ongoing weakness of the pound against the US dollar would make British goods relatively cheap.

The UK of late has also seen significant improvement in its lamb sales across the English Channel to France, which depends heavily on British sheep meat, AHDB revealed this week.

“From January to July, the UK exported more than 20,000 tonnes of lamb to France – up 11% on the same period last year,” AHDB said. British food exports to the EU’s 27 member-states plummeted after the start last year of post-Brexit border checks, but later recovered to close to pre-2020 levels.

The US also recently dropped a long-standing ban on British beef, sparking hopes that US consumers would jump at the chance to resume purchases. But the UK has already met its 2022 beef exports quota to the US, where it faces stiff competition from Brazilian suppliers.

AHDB last month also reported rising sales of British pork in the US, as well as in other potentially big markets such as the Philippines – improvements that could, in part, offset the apparent shuttering of the Chinese market to most overseas pig meat suppliers.

The UK has signalled it would like a free trade deal with the US, overtures which the US has largely not reciprocated, saying the UK would need to remove obstacles for US food imports as part of any agreement.