Drought pushes down meat prices

Now is the time for consumers to bargain hunt, according to Koos van der Ryst, vice-chairperson of the National Red Meat Producer’s Organisation (RPO).

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Dry conditions in the Northern Cape, North West and Namibia are forcing red meat producers to sell animals. “Commercial farmers are selling everything, except their core herds. Any old or unproductive animals are destined for the market,” said Van der Ryst. He said the trend had put downward pressure on weaner prices and farmers could expect between R14,50/kg and R15/kg. “There is a general idea that lowered weaner prices aren’t passed on to consumers, but this isn’t true. People just need to start shopping around and buy in bulk. If you buy a half or whole carcass you will be able to strike a bargain.”

Van der Ryst farms near Barkly West in the Northern Cape and has had only 70mm of rain this season. “It’s very dry. I had 40mm of rain in December and then hardly anything. Rain of between 10mm and 12mm a month has fallen since then. If it rained in South Africa and Namibia tomorrow it would make all the difference, but that is an act of God that is beyond our control.”

Henk van Wyk, president of Agri Northern Cape, said the fires that raged in the province in December heightened the impact of the drought. “We lost 260 000ha of grazing due to fires. The veld that is left doesn’t really have nutritional value and animals don’t like eating sun-scorched grass.” About 26 000 head of cattle would have grazed the 260 000ha that was lost in the fire.
Van Wyk said Agri Northern Cape would reassess the problem and see if it could work with the Northern Cape Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development to bring some relief to struggling farmers.

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Van der Ryst said if government patrolled South Africa’s boarders more diligently it could have a positive impact on local producers’ pockets. “But drought remains the biggest reason for the current drop in red meat prices.”