Huge export marketing opportunity for African meat?

While McKinsey’s focus was on cultivation and farming, a recent article carried on the GlobalMeatNews website, a resource for decision-makers in the global meat industry, raised the question of Africa’s potential as a source of meat products that could meet growing international consumer demand.

In the article Elizabeth Bonsall, a consultant with agri food supply chain consultancy Promar International, wrote: “Traditionally, Africa accounts for just 5% of the world’s beef, sheep, chicken, pork and goat meat production – equivalent to some 14-million tons. The largest producer in Africa is, by some margin, South Africa at 20% of the total, followed by Egypt at around 10%.”

Internationally, noted Bonsall, Africa has a fairly low level of domestic meat production, so exports are minimal at around 125 000 tons a year. “In contrast, the growth of Africa’s meat imports has been significant – increasing by some 300% over the last 10 years, rising to around 1,8-million tons.”

Driving this growth in meat consumption is the well-documented rise of the African middle class; a population which has the disposable income and the taste for costlier, high-end food products like meat.

In a 2013 article in South Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper, this consumer trend was highlighted and drew parallels between the rise in average incomes and the rate of meat consumption. According to the paper: “In 1992, the average person ate a total of 15,8kg of white meat a year, according to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The nominal GDP per capita was US$3,39 at the time. Twelve years later (2004), the average South African ate 23,3kg of white meat a year — an increase of 48%. According to the International Monetary Fund, the GDP per capita in that year had risen to US$4,47.”

The article further noted that by 2012, “the consumption of white meat had increased by another 54% to 35,8kg a person a year. In the same year, the nominal GDP per capita had risen to US$7,51.”

On a global scale, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations conducted a study three years ago entitled ‘World Livestock 2011’, in which it projected that, by 2050, meat consumption would increase by some 73% and dairy consumption by 58%.

As this global – and African – demand rises, so does the potential for the meat production industry on the continent to feed not only a meat-hungry domestic market, but also international consumers. As Bonsall noted: “With demand for food [likely] to increase as the world’s population becomes richer and more focused on Western diets, access to farm land and increasing [the] productivity of existing farm land is very much on the agenda. Organisations such as the World Bank now suggest that Africa may hold the key to balancing future global food demand with actual production.”

This bullish view was echoed by Kurt Davis Jr – a private equity investor and early business consultant with experience in Africa, Asia, Europe and the USA – in a blog entitled ‘The Cash Cow of Africa’ that was carried on the news and views website. Focusing on both the meat and dairy industries, Davis noted: “The story of the cash cow in Africa overall is less one of major growth when compared to chicken and eggs; rather, it is one of more efficiency and value chain alignment in the face of low productivity, high demand and differing, but high, prices in certain countries. The potential for fatter and healthier beef through better management of farms, particularly on the feeding side, along with a growing demand, is the second part of the boom. Throw in manure as an added windfall and the potential for a commercial dairy and beef investment goes through the roof.”

The announcement in February this year that the international ban on South African red meat exports had been lifted holds hope for the longevity and future growth of this industry in Africa. The ban, which had been in place since 2011 after the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the country, cost the national economy some R3-billion (US$28-million) in revenue.

Quoting Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who was South African Agriculture Minister at the time, Eyewitness News said bio-security controls had since been put in place, including deploying mobile veterinary clinics to high risk areas within the country and to the country’s borders.