As South Africa celebrated Heritage Day last year, a weaner calf was selling for R39/kg compared to R34/kg this year, according to Livestock Wealth, a company regulated as an agricultural producer agent.
Ntuthuko Shezi, the company’s founder and CEO, said this was a whopping 10% drop in income that farmers must navigate their ways around. He added that the higher costs of diesel was not helping the cause. Well, that includes everyone else that is me and you, right?
Shezi said the high cost of living was making meat unaffordable to the average consumer. “This means that less people are buying meat and as farmers we can’t really tell the cows to produce less. This has contributed to the drop in weaner prices as it is very much a buyer’s market at the moment,” he told “Business Report”.
The CEO said the rocketing cost of living was already impacting the livestock and meat heritage element going into the future. “I think people will start looking at alternative sources of protein. We saw this at the funeral of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, where giraffe and buck were on the menu instead of the cow.”
Buthelezi was the traditional prime minister to the Zulu royal family, a post he was appointed to by King Bhekuzulu, a son of King Solomon, who was a brother to Buthelezi’s mother, Princess Magogo in 1954 (a bit of history there)
He was also the leader of the Buthelezi clan. He was politically active, having been a member of the ANC Youth League before founding the political party now known as the IFP in 1975. He led the party as its president until 2019, then became its president emeritus soon after that.
South Africa’s first democratically elected president, the late Nelson Mandela, appointed Buthelezi as the Minister of Home Affairs, serving from 1994 to 2004.
So, the exploration with the alternative sources of protein at a funeral of the late Buthelezi’s stature is indeed symbolic and will not go unnoticed.
Crocodile meat now also features prominently in various chisa-nyama outlets and its demand is growing.
Shezi said the livestock farmers will have to innovate to reduce their cost of farming and think about value-adding where they were participants on other parts of the value chain. He even suggested that they move to solar for all water requirements at farm level, citing that it was comforting to see that the government could see this.
Absa AgriBusiness senior economist Dr Marlene Louw said the red meat industry in South Africa was a big and important sector as South Africans enjoyed eating red meat. However, she said that this year has been a trying year for the South African red meat industry, with prices decreasing notably on the back of constrained consumer income. “Since the start of September, sentiments have, however, improved with increased export prospects as markets in China and Saudi Arabia opened up for South African red meat. The maize prices started to soften, which will have a positive effect on the industry. It is important that the industry manages diseases and traceability to ensure sustainability,” Louw said.
The banking unit said beef prices have decreased by over 10% since the start of the year. “Our view is that this is the direct effect of constrained consumer income and the adverse effects of load shedding on the beef value chain and consumers’ meat-purchasing rhythms,” Louw added.
While red meat features prominently in braais by a group of family, friends and acquaintances who may be open to explore alternatives, the many traditional ceremonies that mark major milestones in the lives of South Africans demand the presence of a whole cow, or two and sometimes even more. There is not much room to manoeuvre here.
While the cow is a major component of these traditional events, it is not the only one. There are other many costs that go with successfully hosting and delivering a modern-day traditional event.
South Africans should not feel forced to abandon or significantly alter their heritage. The fact that successfully delivering these is proving rather tough, does not mean it is impossible. The braais families and friends do go far beyond a mere celebration. Here strong relationships are forged and paths that lead to a better tomorrow are started and paved. Here our heritage is built and fortified.
I personally encourage South Africans to invest in braais and traditional events that will shore up the red meat sector in this trying time. Our future heritage depends on them. This is where the next legends about our today’s family or community heroes and heroines will be born.
The solutions to our current socio-economic problems will no longer begin and end in Pretoria, the legislature or other head offices. The next job opportunity will come while the meat is getting ready on a braai stand. The next business idea or innovation will be honed by friends who just had some good red meat at a traditional event.
Investing in these social gatherings is definitely not money down the drain. It strengthens relationships which are a good foundation upon which to fight poverty, unemployment and inequality. And it is easier to do that work with a piece of meat somewhere close by.
To more braais among families, friends and acquaintances. Let us eat more red meat, drink and be merry because the work of building our heritage that is being threatened by the prevailing economic conditions awaits us.
Given Majola is a journalist at Business Report.