By Duncan Masiwa

South African meat lovers and livestock producers are likely to grab the short end of the stick this holiday season with meat prices, experts warn. As Mzansi moves into the festive season, meat is expected to trade at higher retail prices, while slaughter prices may trend downwards due to lower demand.

According to Dr Johnny van der Merwe, managing director of agricultural market trends analysis company AMT, the next few months look bleak for especially livestock farmers.

In the beef industry, the latest national average weaner price decreased further, standing at R36.89 per kg by 29 November 2022.

“I don’t think there should be much movement during December and January, while the price may start to find support again towards the end of February,” Van der Merwe points out.

With the A2/3 slaughter price decreasing to R59.74 and the C-grade price increasing to R49.11, Van der Merwe is of the view that slaughter prices may trend upwards over the next few weeks before 25 December.

Meanwhile, he explains, poultry prices remain high with the frozen price at R32.30, the fresh price at R33.73, while the individually quick-frozen price remains sideways at R31.50 per kg.

Import parity duties prices have, however, fallen sharply in the last month due to the stronger exchange rate and may also stabilise local prices now, he adds.

“The expectation is also that prices may start to trend downwards from Christmas due to lower demand, and trade at a lower level at the beginning of next year,” says Van der Merwe.

What about sheep, pork and goat prices?

There seems to be some good news for sheep farmers. Feeder lamb prices increased by 2% recently to R40.69. The expectation is that prices will likely remain at these levels for the rest of the year and trade even lower in January.

The A2/2 slaughter price recently increased to R91.99 per kg, while the C-grade dropped slightly to R70.17.

According to Van der Merwe, “Slaughter prices may reach a peak around 16 December and then start to fall as demand and purchase are also generally lower over that period.”

Pork prices on the other hand have remained at record levels but import parity prices are seemingly falling due to a stronger exchange rate.

“The average pork price increased to R36.15, the baconer price increased to R36.02, the porker price increased to R36.25, while the latest sausage price increased to R28.46 per kilogram.

“The expectation is that prices may remain high until just before Christmas and then fall over the first part of the next week,” Van der Merwe explains.

Meanwhile, goat prices remain under pressure due to lower demand. Large goats are priced at around R43.87 and the small goat are priced at R59.57, while the goat ewe price increased slightly to R42.28.

Impact on meat consumers

Unfortunately, meat consumers will not be spared this December, believes Mervyn Abrahams, programme coordinator at the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group (PMBEJD).

Several factors suggest and projections for the next several months point to food prices rising throughout 2022 and 2023.

These factors include higher electricity tariffs, fuel price increases, escalating crude oil prices, Mzansi’s crumbling railway system, civil unrest, disruptions of major highways and logistics in general, and retailers hiking food prices over the festive season.

“The higher cost of foods means that women spend most of their purse on the core foods which are needed to keep hunger at bay and prepare meals. There has been a distinct drop in the diversity on the plate,” Abrahams says.

Good quality affordable protein in the form of chicken, beef, fish, eggs and milk and amasi is becoming harder to secure, he adds.

According to the PMBEJD’s Household Food Basket in the Household Affordability Index, the cost of the average household food basket increased by R48.13 from R4 787.83 in October 2022 to R4 835.96 in November 2022.

While year-on-year, the average household food basket increased by R563.52 from R4 272.44 in November 2021 to R4 835.96 in November 2022.

Pointing to what consumer buying habits will likely look like in the months ahead, Abrahams is of the view that sausageswill be looked at for cheaper prices in several stores, as families crave a meat taste.

“But we are hearing that some families are forgoing [sausage] and instead buy beef liver and chicken liver (this too is expensive though)…

“Sausage is an important item in the home as it can be chopped up and is heavily spiced and fatty, so it tastes meaty, even though protein levels are low.”

Chicken livers, he adds, are incredibly nutritious, and full of vitamin A and iron. And consumers will try and find it at a good price for their children, especially if there is less meat on the plate, Abraham says. –

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