WARWICKSHIRE, UK – The Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the US Department of Agriculture recently published a final rule updating its import regulations for sheep, goats and their products clearing the way for imports of lamb from the United Kingdom.

Lamb exporters in the United Kingdom will have access to the US market which is valued at an estimated $48.9 million (£37 million) in the first five years of trade.

The final rule removes remaining bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) import restrictions on sheep, goats and their products, and aligns the regulations with the current scientific understanding of BSE.

“BSE is a fatal brain disease that is part of a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs),” APHIS said. “Other TSE diseases that can affect animals include scrapie in sheep and goats and chronic wasting disease in deer, elk and moose.

“When APHIS originally established BSE-related import restrictions, the potential risk of species other than cattle, including sheep and goats, was unknown,” the agency explained. “However, since BSE was first identified, scientists have learned much more about how BSE works, and their extensive research shows that sheep and goats pose a minimal risk of spreading BSE.”

APHIS said the agency is updating its scrapie requirements for importing live sheep and goats and their germplasm to continue to protect the US herd. Any live sheep or goat not transported directly to slaughter, or to a designated feedlot and then to slaughter, must originate from a scrapie-free country or flock with a herd certification program equivalent to the US Scrapie Flock Certification Program.

The small ruminant rule was introduced more than 20 years ago banning imports of lamb from countries where scrapie had been identified.

“Securing access to the US market for lamb has been a priority for the Welsh meat and livestock sector for many years, with HCC and Welsh Government first raising the issue with the American authorities over a decade ago,” said Rhys Llywelyn, market development manager, Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).

“This legislative hurdle has been a crucial barrier to exporting Welsh Lamb to the USA,” he said. “Now that this has been overcome following much hard work, we’re hopeful we can look forward to exporting in 2022; our market research shows that there could be a significant demand for high-quality lamb cuts, particularly on the East Coast and especially in the hotel and restaurant sector.”

The four UK red meat levy bodies, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and Livestock and Meat Commission Northern Ireland (LMC), will continue to work with government and the UK Export Certification Partnership (UKECP) to support the commencement of commercial trade.

Dr Phil Hadley, AHDB International Market Development director said UK lamb exports will complement the United Kingdom’s existing pork and beef trade to the United States, which was worth £22 million to the UK industry in the first nine months of 2021.

“This is fantastic news for our sheep producers and exporters, and we are delighted that US customers will have the opportunity to experience our high-quality lamb products in 2022,” Hadley said. “The US market is estimated to be worth £37 million over the first five years of trade – a tremendous boost for the UK sheep sector. The new legislation also unlocks opportunities for quality UK sheep genetics which presents a further valuable opportunity for the UK sheep sector.

“Gaining access to the US further cements our reputation as being world renowned producers of high-quality lamb and we look forward to seeing our products on US plates in the New Year.”