SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa’s beef imports for the year 2018 are estimated to remain relatively flat at about 45,000 tons, close to 2017 which saw a decline in domestic beef supplies due to a severe drought in the preceding years.

USDA reported that possibility to grow imports was suppressed by low demand for beef.

Last year, South Africa imported beef and beef products worth US$10.4 million from the US, an increase of almost 300% from 2016.

The substantial increase was attributed to extreme drought season in 2015 and 2016 that led farmers liquidate their herds due to shortage of grazing pastures and high animal feed costs.

Since the country has now recovered from the drought, imports from US are expected not to increase that much, as South Africa has been in the herd rebuilding phase, counting on both well-developed commercial and informal beef sector.

According to the estimates, beef production declined in 2017 to about 967,000 tons and in 2018, production is expected to increase 4% to about 1.01 million tons, as farmers recover from drought.

Limited beef supply in 2017 was as a result of local soft demand that saw high beef prices, making consumers to explore other meat alternatives such as chicken and pork.

Cattle herd is forecast to increase 2% to about 13.2 million cattle in 2018 driven by the continued recovery of the cattle industry from the severe drought that led to cattle herd decline by about 8% to 13 million over the period of 2013 to 2017.

Out of the total cattle herd, beef production accounts 80% while the remaining is for dairy production.

The number of slaughtered cattle is expected to go up in 2018 attributed to improved grazing conditions and relatively low animal feed costs, while 2016 saw the highest increase of about 33% since 2012.

South Africa’s live cattle imports will increase by the annual average of about 4.5%, reaching 383,400 cattle in 2018, offset by low demand for imported weaners.

USDA reports that South Africa accounts for only about 1.4 percent of the total world beef production and the largest beef producer in Africa.

Its beef industry boasts a gross value of about US$2.6 billion contributing 13% to the total gross value of agricultural products.

Beef production has seen an upward trend for the past years, driven by growing export demand and the drought that led to farmers liquidating their herds.

Beef consumption is affected by many factors not limited to disposable incomes, population growth, dietary diversity, urbanization and prices of alternative protein such as chicken and pork.

However, consumption of beef to increase to a million tons in 2018 as local beef production is anticipated to recover in the corresponding year.

The domestic demand for beef is soft because of the slowdown in economic growth, relatively high meat price inflation, and availability of alternative affordable sources of protein (pork and broiler meat).