Bad news for South African meat lovers

Absa’s 2024 AgriTrends Report revealed that beef prices are set to increase significantly this year despite sustained load-shedding.

Beef prices have historically been sensitive to increases in the frequency and intensity of load-shedding.

“Increases in the frequency of load-shedding negatively impacted consumer income and consumers’ ability to afford beef,” the report said.

The risk of wastage due to prolonged periods without power also reduced consumers’ willingness to buy beef.

However, this trend reversed in recent months. Despite an escalation in load-shedding, beef prices have responded favourably to a surge in consumer demand over the festive season.

The report further predicted that beef prices will likely follow an upward trend over the medium term, supported by improved export prospects to markets such as Saudi Arabia.

Marlene Louw, senior economist at Absa AgriBusiness, said stronger links into global markets will provide scope for more aggressive price growth.

This is because herd liquidation in key markets such as the United States is likely to limit demand support for global beef prices over the coming months.

“Locally, demand is expected to show some recovery as interest rates come down and load-shedding eases,” she said.

According to Louw, the price resilience of beef can be attributed to three factors.

  • Consumers in high-income households have made a structural adjustment to mitigate the effects of load shedding.
  • Lower fuel costs during the second and third quarters of last year, which resulted in some reprieve as it pertains to the cost of living.
  • A stabilisation of interest rates, albeit at a higher level, will likely bring relief for consumers during the second half of 2024.

On the supply side, the current heat and dry weather are developing issues that present some upside risk to the subdued demand prospects explained above.

Maize prices have increased by 15% since the start of February, which could add upside pressure to prices over the coming months.

Beef price forecasts

The table below shows the average producer carcass and weaner calf prices from 2020 to 2023 and price forecasts for 2024 to 2026.

YearClass A (R/kg)Class C (R/kg)Weaner Calf (R/kg)


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