Ulster Farmers’ Union, Deputy President, Victor Chestnutt says the news that the United States Department of Agriculture plans to relax their BSE and TSE restrictions will be welcomed by livestock producers in Northern Ireland.
And while the US Department of Agriculture’s proposals are currently still in consultation, there is hope that exports of sheep meat from the EU could resume in early 2017.
Mr Chestnutt stressed that access to new markets for all agriculture products is a key priority for the UFU and that the proposal to relax restrictions for the import of both sheep meat and live sheep is a ‘positive step’ in the right direction.
“The UK is perhaps in a unique position given that it is expected we will soon begin a process to officially leave the EU. However we would fully expect that until such times that the UK has officially left the EU that DEFRA and DAERA will work hard for local sheep producers - ensuring our industry can source export opportunities in the US and other markets,” said Mr Chestnutt.
“While lamb consumption in the US is relatively low in comparison to other meats, they are still only 47per cent self-sufficient meaning they are heavily reliant on imports to meet demand, said the UFU deputy president.
He added: “Competition from New Zealand and Australia in this market is strong, however we believe we have a unique, high quality product which will appeal to US consumers wanting to try something different.
“Aside of this news, obviously there is still uncertainty around what will happen with trade once the UK officially leaves the EU as it will have to renegotiate market access with many countries. Given Northern Ireland’s dependence on exports, our agri-food industry certainly cannot afford any setbacks and we trust that the DAERA Minister will drive this message in her meetings with Government and industry.”