A Profile of the South African Beef Market Value Chain

Image: Flickr, Anne-Sophie Leens
Image: Flickr, Anne-Sophie Leens


Primarily quantitative analysis integrating statistics from Quantec, SAMIC, ITC, COMTRADE, Red Meat Abattoir Association, and the SA Feedlot Association.

Research Objective

To provide an overview of the beef industry in South Africa, including a description of key actors, production and consumption patterns, and import and export patterns.


Key findings

  • South Africa has est. 500 abattoirs, slaughtering 2.3 million cattle, 2.4 million pigs and 5.5 million sheep annually
  • 60% of South African cattle is produced by approx. 50,000 commercial (mostly white) farmers. 40% is produced by 240,000 emerging and 3 million communal farmers
  • Supply chains vertically integrated, most abattoirs owned by feedlots (some also linked to farmers and SMMEs). Some sell directly to consumers or wholesalers (rather than auction)
  • South Africa’s beef consumption is not self-sufficient, is a net importer of beef (7 million kilograms imported and 4.4 million kilograms exported). Per capita consumption: ~15.70 kg, number of consumers: ~48.6 million.
  • In 2013 Africa commanded the highest amount of South Africa’s beef exports (primarily Mozambique at 46%), followed by Europe
  • In 2013, South Africa imported the most beef from Australia at 64%
  • Beef imports dropped 36% from 2012-2013, making the industry more self-sufficient. Likely due to Foot in Mouth Disease outbreak and the Global Economic Downturn
  • South Africa applies a 40% MFN tariff to its major importers
  • South Africa’s beef export destination countries generally apply preferential tariffs between 10-20%
  • Highest growing demand for South African beef is in Kuwait (annual growth 294%) and UAE (annual growth 194%)

Policy Recommendations

  • Biggest market for potential diversification of fresh/chilled beef exports is UAE, although SA may not penetrate market easily.
  • Seychelles fastest growing import market, although small % of world share. SA will penetrate easier b/c SA’s annual export growth to Seychelles is .85%. Most lucrative market for SA
  • Most attractive export markets for frozen beef are Botswana (annual import growth 169%) and Democratic Republic of Congo (annual import growth 77%). Easy to penetrate b/c still small markets
  • Trade facilitation and elimination of burdensome border requirements should remain key priorities for governments and RECs, WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement Category A notifications
  • Greatest prospects for diversification of imports is Mexico because its annual export growth is 36%
2 Jun 2016




RSA Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries


Sub-Saharan Africa


South Africa


Beef Value Chain, Export & Import Analysis