South Africa

Saudi Arabia to import South African beef and lamb after 20-year ban

Saudi Arabia will start importing South African beef and lamb products as part of an investment push into the continent’s most developed economy. 

The kingdom’s Food and Drug Administration lifted a 20-year prohibition on South African meat imports in August, and final approvals to start shipments of halaal cuts to the Middle Eastern nation are now in place, said Matthew Karan, part-owner of Karan Beef, one of South Africa’s biggest meat producers.

“The plan is to start exports in coming weeks,” he told reporters in Johannesburg Wednesday at a South Africa–Saudi Arabia Business Council briefing.

Saudi Arabia has a $2 billion (R37.6 billion) meat market, and lifting the ban — which Riyadh imposed after an outbreak of foot and mouth disease two decades ago — is part of its efforts to forge stronger trade and investment ties as it seeks to diversify its $1.1 trillion economy away from oil. 

BRICS push

Saudi Arabia is among five countries that joined China, Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa in the BRICS bloc on Jan. 1, the grouping’s first expansion since 2010. One of the body’s aims is to increase trade and investment between the member nations. 

Pharmaceuticals and technology are other areas of potential cooperation between South Africa and Saudi Arabia, with Durban-based Aspen Pharmacare set to work with Saudi companies on endocrine and anaesthetic products, said Stavros Nicolaou, Aspen’s senior executive for strategic trade and co-chairman of the two nations’ business council. 

The push for exporting beef and lamb products into Saudi Arabia has opened up conversations for other agricultural products, including poultry, Nicolaou said.

The country that vies with the US to be the world’s biggest oil producer is ploughing millions of dollars into becoming a global supply-chain hub and creating new industries, from electric vehicles to pharmaceuticals, to meet local demand and for export to the Middle East and Africa.

Sports opportunities

Nicolau noted that Saudi Arabia is also looking at investment opportunities in sports, with falconry and equestrian disciplines among possibilities.  

Backed by its Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia has spent millions on sports investments, leading a group that bought English Premier League football club Newcastle United FC and buying players such as Brazil’s Neymar, France’s Karim Benzema and Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

Riyadh has also expressed interest in buying a multibillion-dollar stake in the Indian Premier League, international cricket’s most lucrative event.