Market access to Mexico – the work behind the scenes

Thursday, 2 September 2021

This week, the UK’s red meat sector enjoyed another major boost with the news that pork will be heading to Mexico.  This new market opening is worth an estimated £50 million over the first five years.

This is fantastic news for our pork producers, offering another potential export market during what has inarguably been a challenging year, with both Covid-19 and Brexit putting added pressure on our red meat exporters.

Mexico was first identified as a key target market back in 2017, with the country experiencing a rise in pork consumption and increased demand outstripping production capabilities. As a result, Mexico is now the third-largest importer of pork – accounting for 9% of total international trade, representing a major opportunity for our pork sector.

Collaboration with industry and government

This announcement is a testament to the hard work and collaboration between industry and government to get entry to Mexico over the line. Gaining access to this new market was a slow and resource-intensive process, with many factors coming into play. To achieve this fantastic result, AHDB has played a vital role in all aspects of the work from getting import risk assessment questionnaires and audits completed to facilitating technical discussions.

Over two years ago, we set up a dedicated working group to help achieve a collaborative approach to the market access process, which involved UK governments, and industry – all of whom were committed to working together to gather key information and an expression of interest. While challenging, this proved crucial in ensuring a prompt submission of the import risk assessment questionnaire, which AHDB sent to Defra for internal clearance before submitting to the Mexican Authorities in August 2018, on behalf of the UK – marking the first step in gaining market access. This is an important piece of work as the questionnaire aims to provide the necessary information and evidence to Mexico to carry out a risk assessment on the importation of UK pig meat.

Audits and inspections

Then followed a two-week audit inspection in February 2020, with the overall aim of verifying and assessing information submitted as part of the import risk assessment questionnaire and giving the Mexican authorities (SENASICA) the opportunity to learn more about the UK’s pork production controls. This was a successful audit inspection in which Mexico gathered evidence on compliance with national and EU legislation on animal health and welfare, as well as food safety. Preparatory work for this audit inspection required a close partnership between industry, AHDB, UK Export Certification Partnership (UKECP), the Food Standards Agency (FSA), and Defra, which saw us identify potential exporters and develop an itinerary, whilst also playing a key role in helping pork abattoirs and cold stores prepare for the audit.

In June, SENASICA published the audit inspection report detailing their findings. This saw, AHDB, UKECP, industry, and UK Competent Authorities working together to collate the necessary information to form part of the UK official response to the inspection audit report, which Defra submitted in October. This part of the process was crucial as it provided the necessary evidence and reassurances to the Mexican authorities on the standards of our veterinarian and production system.  It was critical in Mexico agreeing to open its doors to the UK. Following a successful review of the UK response, in January 2021, Mexico agreed to open its market to UK pork and approved four abattoirs and four associated cold stores.

The final steps in this lengthy process were technical discussions on the requirements for export, between the UK and Mexico. Defra led with the support of AHDB and UKECP, which was another crucial partnership as it allowed us to feed in our comments on the export requirements. These discussions involved drafting the export health certificate and technical guidance note, which allowed us to discuss the scope of products for export.

Throughout the process, AHDB has worked closely with industry and government to bring about this fantastic result and marks another major milestone in our export ambitions. Despite the challenges faced by our red meat exporters this year, we will continue to identify new potential markets and work behind the scenes to continue boosting our impressive red meat export figures in the months and years ahead.

Read more from the Defra press release

Listen to our podcast to hear more about this exciting news

AHDB’s Market Access Manager Ouafa Doxon