MEAT eaters may have to make peace with beef substitutes as the amount of locally slaughtered cattle is dwindling.
This is because the country is opting to send live animals to South Africa despite a lack of ready-to-slaughter animals.
Of the 14 892 animals marketed in April this year, only 5 144 were slaughtered for beef, compared to 7 896 last year.
The remaining 9 748 animals were exported live, with 95% of them sent to South Africa, and the rest to Angola.
The 5 144 head of cattle slaughtered are shared with Norway first, then with the European Union and South Africa.
The lack of availibility of meat in the formal market will drive beef lovers either to the informal market or to available substitutes.
Comparing the total number of animals marketed from January to April this year to that in the same period last year, the picture grows gloomy.
This raises the question whether producers are deliberately withholding animals for slaughter from local abattoirs.
Meat Board of Namibia (MBN) statistics for April show that 57 858 head of cattle were marketed from January to April 2021, compared to 87 708 in the same period last year.
Cattle marketing has declined by 34,03% year-to-date – a trend that has been observed as producers are restocking after the recent drought.
Statistics, however, indicate a worrying trend of live exports, which deserves addressing.
Out of those marketed in 2012, some 35 398 were live cattle sent mostly to South Africa.
More live animals are offered to South Africa for slaughter than locally.
This means Namibia has increased its overall amount of beef imports from South Africa as the neighbouring country is well supplied.
Despite more animals present north of the veterinary cordon fence (redline) than south, according to Meatco, the country has imported 887 615 kg of beef from January to April this year, the latest statistics show.
The country has exported 1,2 million kg of beef this year, meaning what is slaughtered in the formal market is exported, while meat for local consumption is imported.
After sending live animals to South Africa, the country turns to its neighbour for beef, as Namibia imported 236 781 kg of beef from South Africa from January to April this year.
Namibia also imported 111 839 kg of beef from Ireland this year, the MBN’s statistics show.
This brings Namibia’s beef imports from Europe to 301 760 kg in 2021, compared to 37 003 kg in the same period last year.
The MBN has warned that consumers should brace themselves for high prices.
“Beef prices hit a high of N$55,46/kg during the month of April 2020 amid a shortage of slaughter cattle due to herd building,” the board wrote.
This means producers are charging local abattoirs more for their cattle, as they are perhaps offered more for their live animals by South African feedlots and abattoirs.
The annual inflation rate for April 2021 stood at 3,9% – up from 1,6% recorded in April 2020, making it the highest annual inflation rate recorded since June 2019, when 3,9% was also recorded.
The main contributors to this were food and non-alcoholic beverages, which accounted for 16,5% of the product basket.
Regarding food, meat was the monster, with beef being 15,8% more expensive in April this year than a year ago, followed by fruit, with a 10,6% price increase.
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