Picture: THEO JEPTHA/Daily Dispatch
Picture: THEO JEPTHA/Daily Dispatch

South African consumers can expect a sharp decline in the price of red meat, thanks to a ban by neighbouring countries following the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Limpopo.

The outbreak was discovered in the Vhembe district two weeks ago. Last week, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, eSwatini and Mozambique announced a complete ban on importing South African meat until they had proof that the disease had been contained.

While the ban has hit farmers, it has created a surplus as meat that was earmarked for export will now flood the South African market.

A study conducted by the Red Meat Producers Organisation (RPO) found in 2017 that if the country lost its FMD-free status, the economy would lose about R6bn a year. The country lost its FMD-free status in 2011 after an outbreak and only regained it in 2014, at a cost of R4bn to the economy, according to the organisation.

Khaye Nkwanyana, spokesperson for agriculture minister Senzeni Zokwana, said although the farmers were severely affected by the ban, SA would benefit from the low meat prices in the coming weeks and months.

“In every dark cloud there is a silver lining. Whereas we have still retained other red meat SA markets such as Middle East, Europe and East Asia, the impact of neighbouring markets ban of red meat will result in lowered prices of red meat in SA as of February this year.

“More meat that ordinarily would have destined for exports from red meat commercial farmers must now be force-fed to the South African market, resulting in meat surplus and therefore this trend of abundance pushes down the prices to stimulate consumer buying ... so brace yourself for cheaper red meat, folks,” Nkwanyana said.

Hendrik Botha, from the KwaZulu-Natal Red Meat Producers Organisation, said the province accounted for about 30% of the meat producers who had been hard-hit by the ban.

He confirmed that there would be sharp decrease of red meat prices.

“There is no doubt that our farmers have been hard-hit by the ban. Despite this, the red meat is safe for human consumption. We are talking to retailers to ask them to reduce the prices so that consumers can take advantage of the fall in prices to buy more red meat.

“It is up to the retailers to decide whether they reduce the prices or not. Remember, as farmers we cannot dictate to the retailers because we are price takers, not price makers and it is up to retailers to decide when to reduce or increase prices,” Botha said.