THE British beef and lamb industry could benefit by up to £115m in the next three years after a landmark agreement was signed to start importing the meat to Russia.
British-produced beef and lamb were banned from Russia because of concerns about BSE.
But after 26 years, that ban is now set to be officially lifted.
Limited British beef exports are expected to started in the New Year, with lamb exports are due to begin in April.
Eblex reckons combined beef and lamb sale could be worth between £80m and £115m to the UK over the next three years.
Britain exported fresh and frozen beef and veal worth £438.1m last year, and fresh and frozen sheep meat worth £381.6m. Russia is one of the world’s biggest beef importers, buying in more than 600,000 tonnes a year.
Earlier this year, Defra and Eblex hosted a delegation of Russian vets who spent a week visiting British beef farms and processing facilities. Eblex head of trade development, Peter Hardwick, said it had worked closely with Defra “to emphasise the importance of this market and, through the Export Certification Partnership with Defra, placed Russia as a top priority in terms of market access and the lifting of import restrictions”.
“Russia remains one of the largest global importers of beef and the potential for beef exports there is enormous,” he said. “We welcome the official political announcement, but are not surprised as the technical decision to lift the ban had already been made.”
The ‘technical’ decision was made in the summer and the ‘political’ decision to lift the ban was made following the visit to Russia by Defra’s chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens. Written conformation is expected in the next few days.
Mr Hardwick added: “As we’ve said before, improving market access for beef and lamb in non-EU countries will help the UK compete on the global stage and maximise returns for producers.”
The agreement comes after a £50m agreement to export British pork to China, which was agreed in May.
Food and farming is worth £89bn to the UK economy and employs 3.5 million people. Last year, UK food and drink exports increased by 9% to £18.2bn, the seventh consecutive year of growth.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: “British food is recognised around the world for using quality ingredients, for rigorous production standards, and for reliable traceability.
“This deal is further evidence of international confidence in what British producers have to offer.
“Our food exports are booming, recently topping £18bn a year, and this Government is doing all it can to open up markets abroad.”