The country banned red meat imports from Britain after the first bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) outbreak in the late 1990s. However, the UK is now virtually free of the disease and Russia decided to lift the ban over the summer, with an export agreement announced last week after Russian officials met with a British delegation headed by the UK’s chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens.
The exact details of the deal are unclear, but the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rurual Affairs (Defra) said that it could be worth £80m to the British meat industry over the next three years, with beef exports expected to start in January and lamb exports to follow in April.
Eblex, the English beef and lamb levy board, predicted the deal could be worth as much as £115m, pointing out that Russia is one of the world’s largest beef importers.
Peter Hardwick, Eblex head of trade development, said: “Russia remains one of the largest global importers of beef and the potential for beef exports there is enormous. We welcome the official political announcement, but are not surprised as the technical decision to lift the ban had already been made.
“We’ve been helping to work towards this for some time and were aware of Nigel Gibbens’ visit to Moscow. 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.”
Russia has been a key priority for Eblex and Defra under the Export Certification Partnership, which was created to help speed up the process of re-establishing certification to markets closed to UK exports after disease outbreaks.
The opening of the Russian market follows a £50m pork export deal signed with China in May this year,
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.”