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Progress in effort to overturn US block on haggis

EFFORTS to restore haggis exports to the US have made progress, UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has said.

The minister met US ­Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and officials from President Barack Obama's administration in Washington earlier this week.

Talks focused on overturning the long-standing ban on importing haggis to the US. Scotland's national dish was barred because a key ingredient, sheep's lung, was subject to an import ban in 1971.

Speaking after a round of meetings, Mr Paterson said: "We've made progress at opening up new markets for top-quality British produce including haggis, lamb, beef, cheese and confectionery.

"My meetings have revealed a shared vision for transatlantic trade, with both sides committed to securing a deal based on science and delivering economic growth for our farming, food and drink businesses."

Sources at the ­Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said a deal had not been expected this week. However, hopes of restoring haggis exports remain high after the US recently agreed to lift a ban on British beef.

The US and EU are also negotiating a major trade deal that would ease import/export restrictions on a range of goods.

The UK Government mission sparked a war of words with the Scottish Government this week.

Scotland's Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead - who has campaign against the haggis import ban for several years - accused the UK Government of taking up the issue only because of the independence referendum.

The UK haggis market is worth £15 million per year, and producers believe the US market could be worth more.

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