This past week, the American Sheep Industry Association, along with the U.S. Meat Export Federation and lamb processors Mountain States Rosen and Superior Farms, co-signed a letter to Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Under Secretary Alexis Taylor acknowledging the progress in market access for lamb into Taiwan and Japan over the last year. FAS has placed the United States sheep industry on the cusp of gaining access to both of these valuable export markets.
“Sheep industry leaders met with USDA on this issue when they were in Washington last month,” said Peter Orwick, ASI executive director. “Opening important export markets for lamb has long been a priority for the industry.”
The U.S. lamb industry identified regaining access to the Taiwan and Japanese markets as two of its top three market access priorities. The value of Taiwan’s lamb imports increased by approximately 80 percent from 2003 to 2012. Japan was a top five market for U.S. lamb prior to the market closing in 2003. If the United States were to capture just 10 percent of Taiwan and Japan’s lamb import market, the value would be $7 million and $13 million, respectively. The added revenue that would result from resuming exports to Taiwan and Japan would contribute to the profitability of the lamb industry and further diversify the industry’s portfolio of available markets.
Taiwan and Japan have both banned imports of lamb from the United States, along with several other countries, since December 2003 when the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy was recorded in the U.S. cattle herd.
In 2014, the Taiwan Food and Drug Authority conducted audits of U.S. lamb packing establishments, which began the process that continues to this day to re-establish access for U.S. lamb exports to that country. The industry understands that finalizing the export certificate language is the primary remaining hurdle to opening the market.
Japan began working on restoring lamb access in 2015 when the government of Japan initiated a scientific assessment of the public and animal health risks associated with lamb exported from the United States. With the risk assessment being completed, July 2016 has been targeted as the timeline to reopen the market.
The industry asked that USDA continue working with the governments of Japan and Taiwan to complete the terms necessary for re-establishing these markets for U.S. lamb so these lucrative export markets can be recaptured. South Korea is another market that has good potential for U.S. lamb and ASI has asked USDA to explore trading opportunities there.
“Access to these markets does not depend on the approval of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement that is before Congress,” Orwick concluded. “We have reminded officials that the sheep industry needs to see a significant market opened before we can consider policy on new trade agreements.”