Uruguay has announced that the United States Federal Registry published that beginning 12 October Uruguayan ovine meat, with bone, will have access to the US market. This follows a long decades process which obtained its first milestone at the end of 2013, when access to the US market was granted to boneless lamb and mutton, with the first shipment in early 2014.
The decision was made public on Tuesday at the livestock and industry Expo-Prado show in Montevideo during a media conference attended by foreign minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa, interim agriculture minister Enzo Benech, US Ambassador Kelly Keiderling, the president of the Uruguay Rural Association, Pablo Zerbino and the head of the Uruguay Wool Secretariat, Alejandro Gambetta.
Since 2013 Uruguayan officials have been involved in technical discussions and exchanges with their US counterparts to open the market to boneless mutton and lamb. Finally the US accepted Uruguay's stance based on a compartment process which is the protocol of the Paris based OIE, the International Office of Animal Diseases, a FAO sanitary branch.
The public-private protocol implies the existence of paddocks reserved for the flocks, under special bio-security measures, in a framework of total absence of foot and mouth disease, and with each animal identified according to Uruguay's traceability system.
Between 2014 and 2016 the compartment's process was regularly and randomly tested, plus risk analysis, fully complying with US sanitary demands.
Finally it was concluded that the certification access process has taken place in the framework of the so called TIFA, Trade and investment framework agreement, between Uruguay and the United States, to promote bilateral exchanges in goods, services and investments.
The announcement is expected to have an impact on the sheep industry at a very special moment for Uruguayan farmers, which have been hit by lower agriculture prices, and there has been a strong return to cattle breeding.
However Uruguay's flock at the moment is below eight million head when at one time it reached over 20 million. More profitable options since 1989, have seen the industry lose vitality and in recent years, rustling, wild boars and packs of feral dogs have taken their toll.