Outbreak of African swine fever: Opportunity for the SA beef industry

24 May 2019: The recent outbreak of African swine fever across the globe has impacted China – one of the world’s biggest consumers of meat – which will see an increase in demand for alternative protein sources, such as beef. This in turn creates an opportunity for the South African beef industry, provided that the country’s foot and mouth (FMD) disease-free status is restored so that China resumes beef imports from South Africa.

This is the view of Gert Blignaut, Chief Operations Officer at Beefmaster Group, a renowned South African beef producer fast cementing its reputation as an international specialist supplier of quality beef products, with a customer base that stretches throughout southern Africa to the Middle East, Far East, and beyond.

China in the last week announced that it would resume the imports of hides, livestock skins and wool from SA, following a suspension on these and all beef products exported to the Asian country from SA because of an outbreak of FMD earlier this year. The Asian nation currently imports red meat from Brazil, New Zealand, Paraguay, Uruguay, Australia and amongst others. South Africa was the first country in Africa to export its beef products to China. It has not yet resumed the import of beef products from SA.

“This is a step in the right direction, but we need to regain our FMD-free status to avoid further delays, which could have negative consequences on our economy and the beef industry if not restored soon,” says Blignaut, adding that beef exports to China is vital to the South African economy.

Experts are anticipating that the demand for beef will increase in China, due to the impact of African swine fever on the pork industry in China.

“It would be positive for the South African economy to yet again get a slice of the pie when it comes to the export of beef products.”

Blignaut, who is on the committee to re-establish trade with foreign markets, in conjunction with local and international industry representatives, adds that the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) must be congratulated for taking swift action and coordinating the industry response following the outbreak of FMD.

“We need to ensure that the SA beef industry remains profitable,” says Blignaut, who returned from Shanghai this week after representing Beefmaster Group at SIAL China 2019.  This is Asia’s largest trade expo, and the third biggest food innovation exhibition in the world, held annually.

“The Chinese response to our exhibit was extremely favourable and welcoming, despite the market being closed to SA since the outbreak of FMD. This is because of the positive relationship built with them since trade was established in 2017, as well as the quality of South African beef that China has become accustomed to in the last two years.

“The Chinese food import market is highly competitive, and there is an increasing demand in China for high quality beef products due to a growing middle class,” he says, adding that the total South African beef exports increased by 50% since trade to China opened in 2017, making it a very valuable trade market to the country.

Research suggests that the Chinese meat industry is booming, with more than one million metric tons of meat imported to the country in 2018, making it the world’s largest market for beef products. According to reports, China’s 2019 beef imports are predicted to be double 2016 volumes.


About Beefmaster Group

Beefmaster Group is a leading specialist producer of quality beef products to South Africa, the Middle- and Far East, and beyond. We are one of the largest privately-owned beef production companies in South Africa. Beefmaster Group is involved in the entire value chain, from rearing and farming cattle to delivering meat-based products to customers. This requires many fundamentals that are not traditionally agricultural, such as fleet management of road trucks, earth-moving equipment, cattle health and feed, meat cutting and packaging, and fully-equipped workshops

We believe that all cattle breeds have the potential to deliver exceptional beef products. We forge strong relationships with both established and emerging farmers to access a variety of cattle, regardless of breed, helping farmers boost the quality and sustainability of their herds by offering training, mentorship programmes and offtake agreements, amongst others.

Our state-of-the-art technology and world-class facilities allow us to customise and “produce to order” for some of the biggest players in the food industry. Our exceptional team of highly-trained staff, operating in line with the highest possible safety standards, enables us to be a trusted supplier and partner. Our traceability system allows us to track and trace our beef throughout the supply chain. This means we can confidently promise a quality end product. We commit resources to not only our staff but also local communities, with a view to sustainably and positively impact the environment in which we do business.