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Who are the leading importers of South African beef?

South Africa is typically a net exporter of beef, and recorded a positive trade balance of R203m in the period between 2012 and 2016.

There is much good going for the South African agricultural industry, which often gets overshadowed by policy discussions. Last month, I highlighted the progress South Africa has made in boosting agricultural exports which exceeded R130 billion in 2017, supported by growth in exports of edible fruits, beverages, spirits, vegetables, grains and other agricultural products.

While not among the top exported products, the South African beef industry has made some inroads in terms of exports in the past couple of years. This is clear from figure one shown below. In fact, South Africa is typically a net exporter of beef (chilled and frozen) and recorded a positive trade balance of R203 million in the period between 2012 and 2016.

In terms of volumes, medium-term trends show a sharp increase in overall beef exports, from 14 634 tons in 2012 to 39 135 tons in 2016 (see figure one). Frozen beef exports increased from 2 921 tonnes in 2012 to 18 067 tonnes in 2016 – a five-fold increase. Meanwhile, fresh/chilled beef exports increased from 11 714 tonnes to 21 068 tonnes over the same period.

Figure one

Source: TradeMap and Agbiz research

Major markets for fresh/chilled beef include regional markets (Swaziland, Mozambique and Lesotho), as well as Middle East markets (Jordan, Kuwait and UAE) (see figure two). Meanwhile, frozen beef markets include Far East markets (Vietnam and Hong Kong), regional markets (Mozambique, Angola, Lesotho) and the Middle East markets (Kuwait) (see figure three). Over this period, the most consistent importers were Kuwait, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mauritius and Angola.

Figure two

Above all, Jordan, UAE, Kuwait, Mozambique, Swaziland, Namibia, Lesotho, Mauritius and Angola are important markets for the South African beef industry as they account for over 90% of its exports by value. Most importantly, as the industry recovers from the 2015-16 drought, with plans of integrating new entrants in the spirit of inclusive growth and development, opening new export markets should form part of the agenda going forward. I will explore this at a later stage.

Wandile Sihlobo is an agricultural economist and the head of research at Agbiz.

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The picture is one of a healthy growing export business generated by SA farmers from 2012 untill 2016 , and it has probably continued on the same growth path from 2016 untill 2018 .

Commercial farming created the sufficient supply of beef which was and still is required to build such an export business .
Expropriating land , and dividing it into smaller parcels to create small scale farming , as the ANC now proposes , will reduce the tonnage of beef SA can export .
Farming and producing an export product such as beef with success ,
is not an exercise that politicians excell in , as Zimbabwe show cased in their EWC exercise .
Pray , it is left in the hands of agricultural economists and commercial farmers to guide them .

The left-hand piechart in Fig 2 reveals an interesting competitive advantage for SA:
Apart from neighbouring countries, the main markets are Arab/Muslim, presumably buyers of halaal meat. With a home Muslim population, producing halaal meat must be a doddle; we also have a distance advantage over South American and Pacific competitors.

We need to find other such niches.

End of comments.

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