From where does America currently import lamb?

Thursday, 23 September 2021

By Rebecca Wright

This week Boris Johnson announced that the US would be removing the import ban on British lamb which has been in place for over three decades. Boris announced this, but there are still a number of steps to go through before we can actually get market access.

Sheep meat is largely a niche product in the US with average per capita consumption being at just 0.5kg/year, which is an eighth of consumption in the UK. Although with a significantly larger population, overall consumption of lamb is around 170k tonnes per year, just over half the level in the UK. Around two thirds of this will have been imported almost exclusively from Australia and New Zealand.

So how much could this be worth to the UK sheep industry?

While the announcement means the UK may potentially gain market access although there are still further steps needed before full market access is in place. There is also no trade deal between the UK and the US. This means any meat would be subject to World Trade Organisation Most Favoured Nation tariffs. The US WTO MFN tariff on lamb is fairly low at 0.7¢/kg with mutton facing a tariff of 2.8¢/kg. Australia, the largest supplier, has a free-trade agreement, but New Zealand, the second largest supplier, does not.

The relatively low WTO tariff should not be a particular blocker for trade with the US on lamb. New Zealand volumes, while not as high as Australia, are still satisfying around a quarter of US lamb imports. For the UK, the US is expected to be a market for premium lamb cuts rather than large export volumes. This is especially true if global lamb price relationships revert to pre-2018 trends.

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Rebecca Wright

Senior Analyst - Red Meat

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