Great news for braai lovers in South Africa

 ·28 Feb 2024

The Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) latest food inflation brief points to an easing of meat prices in South Africa across the board – even for chicken pieces, following a heavy-hitting avian flu crisis at the end of 2023.

The group noted that international meat prices declined for the seventh consecutive month in January, reflecting lower prices for poultry (-4.4%), pork (-0.9%) and beef (-0.2%).

“The poultry market was under pressure, given weak demand and ample export supply in the global market. For pork, prices were pressured by low import demand from China, given sufficient domestic production in tandem with abundant supply from other producers in the world market.”

Beef prices decreased due to increased exports from Oceania and South America. Beef exports are projected to move up by 1% to 12.1 million tons in 2024, driven by increased shipments by leading exporters Brazil and Australia due to ample production and strong global demand.

The main factor supporting this surge is robust US import demand, fuelled by declining domestic beef production.

In the sheep meat market, a decrease in the number of sheep available for slaughter (because farmers kept animals for longer due to recent rains) and high demand for imports globally caused sheep meat prices to rise (2.0%) internationally.

Good news for South Africa

The good news for South African braai lovers is that local meat prices were in line with global prices across all meat types, the BFAP said.

“The prices for poultry, using Individual Quick Frozen (IQF) as benchmark, were down by 1.3%, beef down by 1.5% and pork down by 10.3%.”

The group noted that the prices were lower in January 2024 compared to December 2023 as demand weakened following the festive season, warning that there may be a rebound in local demand and prices as Easter approaches.

“Poultry prices reflect sufficient domestic supply of meat despite the impact of Avian Influenza through the latter half of 2023, with weekly slaughters now back to normal and additional supply through imports.

“Ample imports of fertile eggs to keep day-old chick supply consistent aided in achieving sufficient supply.”

The group noted that retail egg prices were slightly cheaper (-1.6%) for a tray of 6 eggs and 0.4% for a tray of 18 in January 2024 from December 2023 levels.

“However, prices were still above those recorded for January 2023 given that supply is still constrained following widespread culling of layer hens in the latter half of 2023 due to Avian Influenza,” it said.

The BFAP said that estimates suggest that up to 22% of the commercial layer flock was culled, “but the retraction in prices suggests that supply is starting to recover, albeit slowly”.

Looking ahead, the group said that the conclusion of the bilateral trade agreement with Saudi Arabia for exports of high-value cuts of meat, as well as the resumption of exports to China signals that the meat industry could experience growth in the demand over the coming months.

Representatives in the local meat industry said that shipments as part of the deal with Saudi Arabia are due to start “in a matter of weeks”. They should drive significant confidence in the local market as well as further investment into South Africa, they said.

Read: Food price reality check for South Africa

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