Scotland’s national dish could be back on US menus within the next 24 months thanks to the lifting of an American ban on haggis sales, which has been in force since 1971.
The delicacy has been the subject of delicate Scottish/American negotiations, which has seen Scotland’s food secretary Richard Lochhead lead a transatlantic charm offensive on behalf of the haggis.
For almost half a century, haggis has been banned from import into America because some of the ingredients - including sheep’s lungs - are banned there.
Mr Lochhead has also been making a pitch for Scotch lamb, which has also been outlawed in the States since 1989 when imports were stopped after the BSE outbreak.
After holding talks with Lisa Mensah, an under-secretary in the US Department of Agriculture, and representatives of the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Mr Lochhead said they had confirmed draft rules to be published in 2016 would pave the way for sales of both haggis and Scotch lamb in the US from the following year. He said: “Getting back into the US market in 2017 would unlock a huge market and millions of pounds of business for our Scotch lamb and haggis producers.
“Scotch lamb is among the best in the world and the Scotch label is seen as a real hallmark of quality, and getting back into the US market would be a real breakthrough.
“We know that around 10 million US citizens claim Scottish heritage so we have a ready-made market with them and with Scots at heart. Of course exports to the US will also be a real boost for producers and farmers and benefit our economy.”
Mr Lochhead has been in both America and Canada this week, carrying out a series of engagements to promote Scottish food and drink.
He was joined at the talks by Rob Livesey, vice-president of the farmers’ union NFU Scotland, George Milne from the National Sheep Association, and James Macsween, the director of haggis maker Macsween of Edinburgh.
Mr Macsween said: “We are very excited about the prospect of exporting haggis to the US within the next 24 months. It will be a massive opportunity for us and the industry.”
Mr Livesey said: “The opening of this market will be a real shot in the arm for our primary producers, who need every market opportunity available in anticipation of an upturn in demand.”