The South African beef industry has seen enormous growth in exports over the past couple of years, generating an estimated US$144 million in 2017. In terms of volumes, medium-term trends show a sharp increase in overall beef exports, from 8 292 tons in 2001 to 31 888 tons in 2017. Frozen beef exports trebled from 4 740 tons in 2001 to 13 808 tons in 2017. Fresh/chilled beef exports increased fivefold over the same period, from 8 292 tons to 18 080 tons.

Among the top ten destinations for South African frozen beef export markets, there are continental markets (Lesotho, Mozambique, Angola, Mauritius, Swaziland and Egypt), the Far East region (Hong Kong, China and Vietnam), and the Middle East (United Arab Emirates). In terms of chilled/fresh beef, the continental markets (Swaziland, Mozambique, Lesotho, Namibia and Mauritius) featured prominently, followed by the Middle East (United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar), and the Far East (China).

This remarkable progress is likely to be disrupted this year following an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in cattle in the Vhembe District of Limpopo, which has led to a number of countries, including Swaziland, Botswana and Namibia banning South African cattle and beef imports. This will put pressure on cattle farmers (especially the red meat industry), and in turn, negatively impact South Africa’s agricultural trade balance. The overall financial impact on the industry is unclear at this stage as local authorities are still on the ground conducting investigations to check test results and to determine the extent of the FMD outbreak.

Apart from the FMD outbreak, 2019 had a difficult start with drier weather conditions in the western parts of the country. These conditions have negatively affected veld grazing and led to an increase in maize and soya bean prices, both key animal feed ingredients.  –Wandile Sihlobo

Wandile Sihlobo, head of economic and agribusiness intelligence at Agbiz, shares highlights in his weekly update on agricultural commodity markets. Click here for the full report on agri markets for the major commodities.