Prospects for UK agri-food exports: North America

The main opportunity for UK exporters in North America will be for premium red meat and dairy products which are differentiated from domestic production.

Summary of findings

North America is an affluent region, with high and stable levels of red meat and dairy consumption. The region has not been a big importer of UK red meat or dairy, but it is likely to offer improved opportunities over the next ten years.

Data analysis and discussions with in-country experts has identified a range of opportunities for UK exporters. Those with the highest potential are:

  • Lamb (USA and Canada)
  • Pork (USA and Mexico)
  • Beef (USA and Canada)
  • Cheese (Canada and Mexico)

Lamb: The USA and Canada are net importers of lamb and have low levels of tariff protection for imports. Lamb consumption per capita is low, but there are pockets of high demand. Consumer data shows that quality and ‘naturalness’ are increasingly important to shoppers. Product that emphasises factors like grass-fed, organic, antibiotic-free and hormone-free will appeal.

Pork: Mexico is one of the biggest pork importers in the world. Further growth to both consumption and imports of pork are expected. While the USA is a big net exporter of pork, its volume of imports is significant and expected to rise. The opportunity here will be for premium product such as antibiotic-free, hormone-free and organic. UK pork production systems differ from those in the USA, and this will help differentiate UK product from domestically produced – higher welfare and outdoor-bred product will appeal to many US consumers.

Beef: The USA and Canada are big beef consumers. While domestic production in these markets is expected to expand, there is demand for imported products. The main opportunity for UK exports will be to provide products that are differentiated from conventional domestic production. Grass-fed, organic, antibiotic-free and hormone-free beef are all premium products where growth is likely. UK exports to the USA have been restricted by quota challenges in the last year; these need to be addressed if export volumes are to expand.

Cheese: None of the countries in North America are big importers of cheese. High World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs are in place which restrict imports. However, there are opportunities for UK exporters. The UK has a preferential trade deal with Canada and Mexico. The trade deal enables some quota-free access to both countries and ongoing government talks aim to enhance those deals. If the UK were to secure a higher volume of tariff-free access this would greatly help exporters.

Image of staff member David Swales

David Swales

Head of Economics and Analysis Operations (Livestock)

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Where do the opportunities lie?