Scotland asks U.S. to lift haggis ban

The Scottish government has invited a delegation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to Scotland in a bid to lift the ban on haggis imports.

In an interview with the BBC, Scotland’s Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said he wants to show the officials that haggis is made in a safe and sanitary manner.

Earlier this year we reported that the ban on haggis was being lifted. This ban was put in place on UK meat products in 1989 thanks to the outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a.k.a. mad cow disease. The ban on UK meat was indeed lifted, but our report on haggis turned out to be premature, because in ensuing years the U.S. government had added a ban on imports of food containing sheep lungs, a key ingredient in traditional haggis.

Now the Scots are trying to get that last hurdle out of the way. Mr. Lochhead says the U.S. market for haggis could be huge. Think how many expat Scots, Scottish-Americans, and wannabe Scots there are in the good old U S of A. Just the number of people trying it once out of curiosity could add up to millions of dollars in sales.

He believes that if U.S. agriculture officials saw the high standards of food processing in Scotland, they’d give sheep lungs a break and allow them for human consumption.

Personally, I don’t like haggis, but that’s just me. I think that the more ethnic foods are available to the consumer, the better.

[Photo courtesy user Kaishu via Wikimedia Commons]

Foreign visitor spending in U.S. gets ugly

The U.S. Department of Commerce tells us that spending in the United States by foreign visitors fell 13 percent to $10.3 billion for the month of October – off $1.6 billion from October 2008. For the entire year, international visitor spending plunged 16 percent. Spending fell $18.6 billion. The good news is that the October decline is better than the year-to-date drop, which the international travel market may be on its way back.

Visitors to the United States spent $8 billion in October on goods and services related to tourism and travel, off 12 percent year-over-year. This money was spent on “food, lodging, recreation, gifts, entertainment, local transportation in the United States, and other items incidental to foreign travel,” according to a Commerce Department statement.

Passenger fare receipts – including air and other forms of international travel to the United States – fell close to 16 percent to $2.2 billion for the month of October. This is off more than $420 million compared to October 2008. October was the twelfth month in a row in which travel and tourism exports declined year-over-year.From January to October this year, foreign visitors dropped $100.9 billion getting to and hanging out in the United States. But, they 16 percent by which they trimmed their spending is not without similarity on our side of the equation. U.S. travel imports – i.e., those of us visiting other countries – reached a mere $81.6 billion, off around 13 percent ($12.1 billion). The result was a trade surplus of $19.2 billion for the first 10 months of 2009, representing a decline of 25 percent from the 2008 travel and tourism trade surplus.

The tanking of the travel market at the end of 2008 – following the near-collapse of the global financial services market in September – marked the end of more than five years of consecutive monthly growth in travel and tourism exports. For the past 12 months, the situation has been grim, but the pressure appears to be easing, at least slightly.

The broader economic climate seems to be improving slowly, but it remains vulnerable to many risks. Another financial time bomb could send everything off the rails again, so it’s certainly too soon to say the travel market is returning to normal. There are signs, however, that it could be headed in the right direction. Fast and easy answers, on the other hand, will remain elusive for a while.