Cattle exports shoot up in first quarter

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Staff Reporter

Windhoek-This year has seen more cattle marketed between January and March compared to the same period last year with an increase of 12.43%.

This year 73 569 cattle have been marketed in the said period compared 64 421 last year. Due to the high demand for weaners at feedlots in the Republic of South Africa (RSA), 76% of the cattle marketed were live exports. Export abattoirs accounted for 19% while the declared numbers by the B&C class abattoirs accounted for 5%. Compared to the number of cattle hides bought during the reported period, this number is highly unrepresentative.

Namibia experienced a severe drought in 2016 which resulted in the scarcity of fodder and therefore poor quality livestock. Higher rainfall coupled with rangelands are the contributing factors to the increase of marketing stock, statistics from the Meat Board of Namibia show.

A reduction in the number of cattle slaughtered at export abattoirs was observed on the slaughter market. This spilled over into the first three months of the year as cattle slowly became available for slaughter. This trend can be observed in the units slaughtered from January to March as only 1 093 combined cattle were slaughtered at Meatco and Brukarros in January 2017. In general cattle are mostly not market ready in January and this phenomenon constrains the supply to abattoirs. However, as soon as the cattle become ready, the supply gradually increases and slaughtering at the export abattoirs reaches a peak from April.

Compared to 48 248 cattle in 2016 to 55 822 cattle in 2017, the weaner market was exceptional by closing year-on-year at 13.6% higher than previous levels. It is notable that the low cost of maize simultaneously drives the demand for weaners and the high weaner prices in South Africa, pushing feedlot operators into a competitive mode.

Due to cattle losses encountered during the 2015 drought, a 29.7% decrease was realised compared to 2016. Due to tightened supply and a higher demand in RSA markets, the Namibian weaner prices followed an upward trend over the past three months, moving from N$16.96/kg in January to N$21.08/kg in March 2017. After South Africa received good rains producers changed to herd rebuilding and this led to less South African weaners being available for the feedlots.

Lower feed prices (maize) is another factor that contributed to the increase in demand and subsequently the price. Maize prices decreased by 22% during the reported period and as a result feedlots are able to feed more weaners at a much lower cost. There is about an N$8.58 average price difference between the average weaner price in Namibia and South Africa. An increasing trend in the weaner prices can be observed in both countries although more significantly so in South Africa.

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