As the people of Mzansi rush to finish their last shopping before Christmas, meat lovers are weighing up their options a little more carefully than before. But the hefty festive-season price tag on roasts and braai meats might make way for a short-term breather early in the new year.
Paul Makube, senior agricultural economist at FNB Agribusiness, says braai budgets are likely under pressure this festive season as meat prices have surged to a record high for December.
Beef prices have now reached an historical high of more than R56/kg and R49/kg for class A and class C respectively, which is almost 9% and 11% higher than in 2020.
“Favourable production conditions boosted the herd rebuilding process, thus raising the demand for weaner calves, thereby constraining their availability for both the slaughter and feedlot markets,” Makube explains.
“The lamb and mutton categories strengthened to more than R89/kg and R71/kg respectively and further retained their premium above all other meat types.
“In the poultry category, we saw an upswing in prices on strong seasonal demand and the spillover strength from the red meat market. Relatively tighter domestic and import supplies underpin the current strength in poultry prices, which are currently at double-digit percentages above the 2020 levels for this time of the year,” says Makube.
What about pork?
According to Makube, pork lovers could still have their fair share as shelf prices are lower this festive season. “The average producer prices of pork and baconers for the first two weeks of December 2021 were 6% and 15% lower year on year respectively, just above R29/kg.
He adds that, although these prices were going up, farmers are still under pressure because of the cost of petrol, maize and other inputs. This is making it difficult for them to take an increased profit margin home.
“While producers appreciated the strong meat prices, cost pressures kept on mounting with a surge in fuel and feed costs. Grain prices were unrelenting and continued to push feed costs higher.”
He adds that the price of raw maize, a major livestock feed ingredient, remained high despite the record harvest.
The CEO of the Beefmaster Group, Louw van Reenen, concurs that 2021 has been difficult for their members. The difficulties of 2020 that continued into this year include further outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease and further waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, locally as well as globally.
“Riots, unrest as well as logistics and export challenges also played its part to negatively impact the economy as a whole,” he says.
What do consumers say?
It seems like the family feasts will be smaller across Mzansi as consumers are already feeling the pinch of especially food and fuel prices. Here’s what the Food For Mzansi readers are saying:
I don’t do other Christmas shopping, but the food prices are ridiculous – super expensive. Thanks to [loyalty] cards there is a bit of monetary relief. Beef, pork and eisbein are quite expensive, but Christmas is the one time where food prices don’t really matter… so why not? I will be cooking pork sausage, chicken and a bit of salad with garlic bread.
I don’t do Christmas shopping as I believe it is a rip-off. Food prices are ridiculous at this time of year. I have switched my meat intake to chicken and pork because beef and lamb are unaffordable. On Christmas, my wife and I will have our normal menu of either pork belly roast with salads or chicken.
I have already done Christmas shopping and the prices are insane, but I am coping because I am privileged to have two incomes in my household – that of myself and my partner. But this does not mean we don’t struggle. Meat prices have skyrocketed. I have only bought chicken so that I don’t have to spend that much.
I have done my Christmas shopping, yes. Food is ridiculously expensive, particularly now. I think the stores are taking advantage of the season, which sucks. Meat is generally expensive, hence my friends and I contributed money to buy the whole sheep to avoid digging deep into our pockets.
I will definitely cook up a storm. I am hosting my family in my new home, so it must be extra special. I will have a variety of meals from seafood to a few traditional meals. I’ll take a pic.
Justine Perrang Petersen:
Food is very expensive, but we are eating with family and sharing. That works; we are coping. As for meat prices, they are expensive. I can’t even imagine!
We will be cooking the traditional Christmas lunch such as beef tongue, gammon, leg of lamb and braai chicken, served with veg and salads.
I am the worst person to ask this. I have not done any Christmas shopping; I have prioritised my stationery list. I won’t really be celebrating Christmas as I just moved into a new place, so I’m enjoying the solitude. Will take the kids to their dad’s and be home alone.
Food is expensive, bro. How can I elaborate on this? I just paid R150 for like 2,5kg of chicken yesterday. But I am coping only because I had some money saved up for the festive. I will probably be eating meat for free at traditional ceremonies. The family will be preparing the usual seven colours dish.
Fortunately, I did my shopping already during Black Friday. I go around to many shops and compare prices. I think this helps a lot. Meat is expensive. We will do pork braai and salads on Christmas.
Food is super expensive. We are not coping. I will not have too many varieties. Leg of lamb, gammon and chicken will be on the menu together with veggies and a few salads.
From a farmer’s point of view
Livestock farmer Onthatile Nkunika from the Northern Cape says the cost of meat going up is justifiable as the cost of feed and other necessities were also high.
“What really hits us the most, is keeping the livestock fresh in terms of feed, injections, supply of clean water and petrol for moving them from one area to another. We are feeling the pain in our pockets.”
Restaurants also feeling the pinch
Easy by Night pub and grill owner Disaleng Molepo says that she, too, has noticed a huge difference in the prices of meat over the festive period.
“Because I buy in bulk, the amount is huge. But I cannot say people will not come and braai. Most people in my area love meat, especially this time of the year. I have no doubt that meat lovers will come in their numbers,” she says.
Makube reckons there could be a short-term breather for consumers early in the new year. The lower seasonal demand after the December holidays, together with other higher food, electricity and transport costs, might place downward pressure on meat prices.
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