The South African red meat value chain is cautiously optimistic for Saudi Arabia to possibly start importing South African beef in January next year. This follows a delegation from Saudi Arabia that recently came to visit and inspect various South African cattle farms, feedlots and slaughterhouses.
Reggie Ngcobo, spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, confirmed this visit. He says that it resulted from the South African state visit to Saudi Arabia in October during which a memorandum of understanding was signed between South Africa and Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Environmental Affairs, Water and Agriculture.
“The visiting Saudi delegation indicated that its government would notify us of their decision before the end of December. We are optimistic as it appears as though we met all the delegation’s requirements regarding its inspection,” said Ngcobo. “We do not expect that foot and mouth disease will be an issue for the Saudis as they are aware that we are making progress and providing regular updates regarding the situation.”
Gerhard Schutte, Chief Executive Officer of the Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (RPO), welcomes the possibility of the export of South African beef and other red meat products to Saudi Arabia. He points out that the Middle East and China are markets that the South African red meat industry has been looking at.
“I think that it is possible for South African feedlots to be divided into compartments to help address animal health concerns of potential importers,” Schutte adds. “The increase in red meat exports is in line with the vision to eventually put an additional 250 000 beef weanlings through South African feedlots annually. Not only will this help to grow red meat exports, which are currently 5% of the national production, to the target of 20%, but these extra calves can be sourced from South Africa’s emerging red meat sector.”
Ivor Karan, founder and chairman of Africa’s largest beef producer, Karan Beef, says his feedlot was one of those visited by the Saudi delegation. It seemed to him as if the Saudis were satisfied with what they saw and learned there.
“As part of the approval that Karan Beef recently received from Triple A Beef, we will start to get access to more weanlings from South Africa’s developing and commercial black beef cattle farmers in order to make these farmers part of the formal value chain.”
Ngcobo says that the Saudis will initially probably only import beef from South Africa. The possibility exists, however, that the kingdom will eventually also import other livestock and agricultural products from South Africa somewhere in the foreseeable future.