Flood of US food imports is ‘unlikely’

There will not be a rapid surge in cheap food imports if the UK reaches a trade agreement with the US, a trade expert has claimed.

“It is unlikely that in the short term a deal with the US is going to mean a flood of US product hitting our shelves,” said Tom Forshaw from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

Forshaw pointed out that trade deals typically take 10 to 15 years to implement, and the US already has high-value markets for food products which pay better than the UK.

In his new report on a UK/US trade deal, the senior policy analyst said that fears about lower standard food coming into the UK could be misplaced. Forshaw said that the US has the capability to set up supply chains that meet a variety of standards.

“The US is a global agricultural powerhouse and a trade deal will improve access to the UK market, so we need to be conscious of what’s potentially coming,” he warned.

However, Forshaw also pointed out that there could be opportunities for some local farmers in a trade deal as the US is a market of 330m relatively affluent consumers.

UK exports

Meanwhile, UK exports of fresh and frozen beef fell by over 80% in January 2021, according to the latest figures from AHDB.

Overall, beef exports stood at 2,200t in the first month of the year, down from 9,100t during the same period last year.

The figures show that shipments to all major export destinations declined after the end of the Brexit transition period. Exports to the Republic of Ireland, which is historically the largest export market for UK beef, fell by 3,200t and totalled just 200t during January.

UK imports of beef also fell during the month, but not to the same extent as exports. In January, imports of fresh and frozen beef totalled 12,300t, down 36% year-on-year.