The United States (US) has moved to lift its 20-year ban on sheep and goat products from countries with cases of BSE and Scrapie, effective from January 3, 2022, meaning UK lamb can be exported stateside from that date onwards.

In the Federal Register, the US Department of Agriculture today (Friday, December 3) said:

“We are amending the regulations governing the importation of animals and animal products to revise conditions for the importation of live sheep, goats, and certain other non-bovine ruminants, and products derived from sheep and goats, with regards to transmissable spongiform encephalopathies such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and scrapie.”

"We are removing BSE-related import restrictions on sheep and goats and most of their products.”

This announcement has been welcomed by many in the UK, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who shared the "fantastic news" via Twitter.

Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) international market development director, Dr. Phil Hadley, echoed Johnson’s comments regarding the financial repercussions of this market opening.

“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,” he said.

Today’s announcement means lamb exports will complement our existing pork and beef trade to the US, which was worth an impressive £22 million to industry in the first nine months of 2021.”

In his comments, chief executive of the National Sheep Association (NSA) Phil Stocker commended the AHDB.

“Credit should be given to AHDB who have been working on this issue for many years and it’s a good example of the value of our lamb levy, the UK Export Certification Partnership, but also to the government and Department of International Trade, who have invested in opening negotiations between the UK and US,” he said.

Overall, Stocker said his association is "extremely pleased" to hear of this rule change.

"I believe there are great opportunities in the US that will benefit British sheep farmers but also benefit the appreciation of lamb by US consumers as a quality, tasty, and highly nutritious food produced to exacting environmental and animal welfare standards," he said.

We also know there is a strong demand for UK sheep genetics in the US – semen and embryos. Many British sheep breeds are present there but are numerically too small to have an adequate gene pool, so the demand for our genetics is strong and is already being asked for by US sheep breeders.

"This is also the case for our commercial meat breeds and for many of our heritage/native breeds and will be of benefit to the global sheep farming sector.”