Game meat market untapped

Growth within the game industry is being hampered by a weaker US dollar and an undeveloped meat market.

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Speaking at the Wildlife Ranching South Africa (WRSA) seminar in Pretoria, Wiaan van der Linde, owner of Wintershoek Safaris, said that the game meat market still has a lot of unlocked potential. “Game meat is healthy and in demand, but it is unavailable. The problem with the industry is that we can’t keep up with the demand so there is an inconsistent supply of meat.” Van der Linde said that game meat was sold at below value prices because the industry lacked proper marketing.

“Cattle and game produce the same amount of meat per hectare but the price for a beef carcass is double that of game. This is our own fault. The industry made a mistake previously to sell the meat cheaply. Game meat is a niche product and should be treated accordingly.

“We need an industry body that can market game meat and grow the industry, because individual farmers can’t do it themselves.” He added that farmers must not run to Europe with their meat, but rather tap into the local market. “There is a huge market here that will never stop eating game.” Meanwhile, business from international trophy hunters is stagnating due to the weaker dollar.

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“This makes the industry vulnerable because we are dependent on the exchange rate. But the industry is growing and there is still a lot of unexplored potential,” said Van der Linde. He advised farmers to acquire more rare game species to remain profitable. Game ranchers at the event were told to revamp the image of hunting as the industry was not rightfully recognised for the contribution it made to conservation.

Dr Philippe Chardonnet, director of the International Foundation for the Conservation of Wildlife, said, “Ranching makes a significant contribution to conservation. It also provides three times more jobs than livestock farms. This is the message that needs to be put forward.”