Livestock farmers look abroad for better prices

Countries lining up to import high-value SA red meat

SA red meat is regularly exported to Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Norway, Jordan, China and about 30 other countries import SA beef, while the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong are known for importing mutton and lamb
IN DEMAND: SA red meat is regularly exported to Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Norway, Jordan, China and about 30 other countries import SA beef, while the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong are known for importing mutton and lamb
Image: FILE

Red meat producers will look to foreign markets to get the best price and most sustainable income for their products in 2022 and beyond.

Though demand from export markets appears promising, Eastern Cape livestock farmers will have to work to keep their animals healthy and safe to get their share of the export income.

In late 2021, the Red Meat Producers Organisation (RPO) said exports should increase significantly from 2022, possibly climbing from the prevailing 4% to as high as 20%.

RPO vice-chair Willie Clack said it was too early to make a definitive prediction for 2022, or estimate how close the industry would get to the 20% mark within the coming year, but increasing meat exports was one of its primary goals.

“We have a high-value product and several countries are looking to import South African meat — not only beef but all red meat.

“And it ensures our farmers of securing good income in becoming more economically sustainable,” Clack said.

SA meat is regularly exported to Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Norway, Jordan, China and about 30 other countries import SA beef, while the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong import mutton and lamb.

Though many of the products are sold slaughtered and processed to a degree, there is also scope for increasing the export of live livestock.

“We are planning a meeting with all the major role players in the red meat industry for the end of the month.

“There we will discuss the way forward and have a much clearer indication of what the projections for the coming months look like,” Clack said.   

A sheep farmer in the Jansenville region, who asked not to be named, said he would be keeping a close eye on meat price projections because this could influence where he sold his animals.

“I have a good relationship with the local butchers and they give me good prices, I can’t complain.

“But as much as I value those personal relationships, I also have to run my business intelligently.

“I know the export of live sheep and goats is somewhat controversial, but if the price it right I have to make the smart choice,” he said.

Anton de Bruin, a cattle farmer near Adelaide, said farmers were in the unfortunate position that they could not dictate the price and had to take what was offered to them.

“I wish we could keep animals back and sell them when we see the market turning upwards, but unfortunately our animals have a so-called shelf life.

“When the agents come to look at your animals and they make a price, there is very little room for negotiation.

“Luckily, beef prices are decent right now, so I’m not really complaining.”

Clack said the biggest challenges facing livestock farmers remained the same — keeping their animals disease-free and out of the hands of stock thieves.

“Currently, there are no new outbreaks of serious diseases threatening exports, and the current outbreaks of things like foot and mouth diseases are being contained and monitored closely.”

Clack, who also heads up the National Stock Theft Prevention Forum, said there had been a steady decline in stock theft cases and he hoped this would reflect positively on the economy.

In the previous financial year, stock theft cost the agricultural sector about R1.4bn.

“The Eastern Cape accounts for about 30% of all stock theft across the country, so if we see a decline in cases there, the overall picture should also look better.

“However, while crime stats are reported quarterly, the numbers of animals stolen are only reported annually, and only then will we see the true impact of crime on the meat industry,” Clack said.

He said the problem was stolen animals never left the market — they just re-entered at a much-reduced price, stealing customers from legitimate producers and hurting them twice.

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