Meat prices in South Africa have come down significantly since the start of the year, which should make it cheaper to host a braai this coming festive season relative to pricing at the end of last year.
The BFAP’s Food Inflation Brief for October shows that meat pricing in the country is generally trending along the same lines as the international FAO Meat Price Index, which declined in October by 0.6% from September.
This was underpinned by a reduction in pig meat prices (-3.7%), given high exportable supplies in the global market and low import demand, specifically from East Asian countries, the group said.
However, prices for other meat types, including poultry, bovine and ovine meats, followed an upward trend (by 1.3%, 0.5% and 0.4%, respectively).
In the global poultry market, prices were pressured by supply constraints given the prolonged period of high feed costs and the continued avian flu outbreaks in leading producing countries (i.e. EU and USA), while consumer demand was firm as poultry meat remained affordable relative to other meat types.
Persistent strong import demand kept bovine and ovine meat prices on an upward trend, countering abundant supply levels (Australia and Brazil- bovine, Oceania- ovine) for both meat types the BFAP said.
South Africa meat price trends
Locally, poultry and beef prices matched to global dynamics, while the contrary was observed for pork and sheep meat.
All price trends below are per kilogram (Stats SA, October 2023)
Poultry prices were up across product types – the price for fresh whole birds increased by 5%, followed by frozen whole birds increasing by 4%; IQF pieces were only up slightly at 0.05%.
Egg prices have shown larger increases (by 5% for half a dozen and 11% for 18) amid the Avian Influenza (AI) outbreak compared to chicken meat prices.
This reflects the fact that South Africa is already a significant importer of chicken meat and so imports could ramp up fairly efficiently when domestic supplies came under pressure due to AI, the bureau said.
“Price differences in the respective products are also indicative of lower-income consumers, who tend to buy IQF pieces, not being able to absorb additional increases, as well as the relative affordability of chicken compared to alternatives such as pork,” the BFAP said.
Furthermore, ramping up egg imports is significantly more complicated than is the case for chicken.
Stats SA’s latest CPI basket shows that chicken prices have trended upwards in recent months in line with these trends.
Pork prices were up by 7.0% in October, with the exchange rate offsetting a lower price globally, and domestic supplies weaker after a prolonged period of high feed prices that were not matched by concomitant pork price increases, the BFAP said.
Pork ribs and pork chops have dropped in price overall this year on a per kg basis in the CPI basket, but pork fillets have again risen in price.
Beef prices were also on the upturn albeit with a small percentage (0.6%), while weaner prices were lower compared to the previous month (-1.4%).
“Local demand for beef remains low due to economic pressures; however, the holiday season does typically bolster demand somewhat, while demand for exports is expected to increase, bringing some relief for beef farmers who faced flat prices over most of the past year,” the BFAP said,
Stats SA’s data shows that a;; cuts of beef have generally come down in price per kg since the start of the year, with fillet, sirloin and rump all seeing significant declines.
Mutton prices have remained fairly flat over the course of the year – but some cuts of meat have climbed in price in recent months – such as loin chops, which are a popular feature on South African braais.
All other cuts of mutton have come down in price since the start of the year.
Skip the potato salad
While meat prices are showing some positive signs, other food categories, like vegetables, are still showing sharp price hikes.
According to the BFAP, this is most noticeable in potatoes.
In the local vegetable market, 44% of the R754.5 million vegetable revenue generated in October 2023 at the Johannesburg fresh produce market was from potato sales, the group said.
“Consequently, any comparison of total vegetable sales on the market would be largely driven by potatoes. With a 24% reduction in potato volumes due to the impact of load shedding on the ability to irrigate, and a year-on-year change in the unit price for October of 209% (R10.30/kg in 2023 compared to R3.33/kg in 2022), the market’s turnover also increased substantially,” it said.
When removing potatoes from the total, the average market price for vegetables sold on the Johannesburg fresh produce market is only 4% higher in October 2023 than the same month a year ago, but still 22% higher when comparing 2023 year-to-date (Jan-Oct) with the same period in 2022.
“While some of the price volatility can be absorbed, or smoothened out, at the retail level, the year-on-year increases are more likely to be already reflected in consumers’ baskets,” the BFAP noted.