Ostrich industry set for recovery

The ostrich industry’s challenge for 2014 is to successfully establish heat-treated ostrich meat products as mainstream commodities in European markets.

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According to Johan Stumpf, managing director of Klein Karoo International, prices were similar to those fetched by fresh meat before a ban on raw meat exports to the EU and UK in 2011. Since the outbreak of the H5N2 avian influenza (AI) virus, the ostrich industry has suffered about R1 billion in losses.

However, as a new product required time to penetrate markets, the challenge would be growing volumes back to where they were before the ban, said Stumpf. He said the industry’s heat-treated products had provided them with an avenue of regaining EU market share. Both Klein Karoo International and Mosstrich now export heat-treated meat products to the EU.

Read: Red meat producers are cautiously optimistic

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But, Dr Francois de Wet, chairperson of the South African Ostrich Business Chamber, said that ideally the industry needed to export fresh ostrich meat parallel to the pre-heated product. “The local consumption of ostrich meat, specifically steaks and fillets, is too low to absorb the volumes produced.” De Wet said for many farmers revenue from slaughter birds was still marginal and fresh meat exports would increase viability of farming and processing.

De Wet, however, added that an increase in the price of feathers and ostrich leather was helping the industry recover.
The price of leather, in particular, was expected to remain strong in 2014 with prices remaining at about R3 300/ bird. But, he added that many producers had left the industry because stringent new bio-security regulations made farming difficult and economically unviable. The industry is expected to shrink by 60% in 2014, and between 100 000 and 110 000 ostriches will be slaughtered this season, compared to 138 000 last season.

Although there had been isolated positive cases of AI anti-bodies up to the end of 2013, there had been no proof of any pathogenic AI virus outbreaks since June 2012, said Stumpf.

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