High meat inflation makes for expensive festive season

As South Africans entered the festive season, meat inflation reached its highest level in 14 months at 10,5% year-on-year, making this a “very expensive braai season”, according to Paul Makube, senior agricultural economist at FNB Agri-Business.

High meat inflation makes for expensive festive season
With meat inflation soaring, South Africans may have to cut down on the traditional family braai, according to Paul Makube, senior agricultural economist at FNB Agri-Business.
Photo: Pixabay
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Meat inflation was further at its highest level for this period since 2017, when a year-on-year increase in prices of 14,9% was recorded.

More specifically, Makube said T-bone steak inflation surged by 18,5% year-on-year to reach R135,48/kg, followed by brisket, which increased by 11,8% to R107,87/kg, and beef chuck that increased by 10,4%/kg to R109,34/kg.

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Lamb chop prices rose by 4,8% year-on-year to R195,55 kg, while chicken prices were up across most categories with an increase of 7,2% to R63,85/kg for fresh whole birds, while individually quick frozen 2kg chicken portions rose by 5,1% to R86,69/kg.

Pork ribs and fillet increased by 3,9% and 2,8% year-on-year to R94,59/kg and R104,62/kg respectively. The exception was pork chop prices, which fell by 3,8% year-on-year to R89,55/kg.

Makube ascribed the high prices to “pedestrian livestock slaughtering [rates], reduced imports of chicken amid higher prices, and the surprisingly resilient consumer demand despite tough economic conditions”.

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He added that livestock producers were under enormous cost pressure due to the high input costs. The price of maize, a major ingredient in livestock feed, increased by 43% year-on-year for white and 28% for yellow maize respectively, to an average of R4 898/t and R4 837/t.

Soya bean prices, a major source of plant protein in livestock feed, averaged around R10 561/t, which was 39% higher year-on-year.

Despite the very significant escalation in input costs, the farm-gate prices of beef only increased by 12% year-on-year, while those of mutton and lamb increased by about 5%, according to Gerhard Schutte, CEO of the Red Meat Producers’ Organisation.

He said consumers should not blame farmers for high prices, as producers were still only earning “about half of what meat is sold for to consumers”.

At the same time, he stressed that South African red meat prices were still about 70% lower than that of similar products sold in the international market, “making it relatively cheap in comparison”.

He added that prices were cyclical, driven by supply and demand, which was why they were usually higher during the Easter and December holiday periods when demand was high.

Prices are expected to decline again early in the new year.

Schutte advised consumers to carefully compare prices and quality when buying meat from South Africa’s approximately 8 000 retail outlets and 400 abattoirs.