September 9, 2003
South African Beef Production Seen around 650,000 Tons
Livestock and meat production has been very constant over the past few years as weather conditions have been generally favorable. Unfortunately the absence of statistical information makes meaningful analysis of minor trends impossible. The cattle population is constant around 13.5 to 13.7 million while slaughter figures vary between 3.1 and 3.2 million. Live imports of between 100,000 and 150,000 annually, mainly originates from Namibia.
Beef production is around 650,000 tons while imports and exports are very small, usually less than 4% of the total. The main source of beef imports is again Namibia supplying 65 to 75%. The meat is imported free of duty as Namibia is a member of the Southern African Customs Union. South African meat prices are low by world standards which inhibits imports from other sources. The volatile Rand/Dollar exchange rate also aggravates trade uncertainties.
In spite of much publicity South Africa's beef export drive is not really getting off the ground, currently running at between 10 and 12,000 tons annually. The strong Rand is a factor making exports less profitable. The industry is, however, in the process of complying with the high international requirements for traceability etc. which could open markets when the Rand
Beef prices nonetheless showed increases up to May 2003 reflecting the still high feed prices. Since the onset of winter, prices have decreased, however.
Although much has been said about South Africa's beef export drive, the total numbers are small constituting less than 2% of production, but the intention is to increase exports substantially.
The emphasis would mainly be on the Middle East and Southeast Asia as the EU tariffs are high. The industry is nonetheless preparing for a serious export drive. It is also preparing to sell more to the EU and is looking at the following aspects to increase exports: Traceability has become the single most important marketing tool into the developed markets. It is a vital part of disease control, public safety, quality control and product identification and the industry is looking at its wider introduction. Both Botswana and Namibia who are extremely successful in the EU market are implementing traceability programs.
Natural production also presents an entry into very lucrative niche markets and can be easily attained. Namibia exports all its best cuts to the EU, albeit duty free, and imports South African feedlot produced beef.