I have previously emphasised the importance of accurate data in the South African agricultural sector to help inform decisions – from an investment, marketing, or policy perspective. In this blog post, I will focus on the less discussed but essential data to observe: sheep slaughtering in South Africa.

My colleague at Stellenbosch University’s Department of Agricultural Economics, Professor Johann Kirsten, recently completed an exciting analysis of the data linked to the statutory levy in the red meat industry. An important point to remember before I proceed is that every animal that gets slaughtered carries a levy amount paid to the red meat industry organisations.

So, Professor Kirsten’s analyses focused on the sheep meat industry, and we can extract from his work the following facts on this vital industry.

How many sheep are slaughtered in South Africa annually?

Based on the statistics for the levy years – November to October from 2015/16 to 2020/21, the total number of sheep slaughtered per annum varies between 4 million to 5 million head. The annual average between November 2015 and October 2021 is 4,8 million, and the monthly average from November 2015 to September 2022 is 398 000.

The number of sheep slaughtered dropped in the last three years due to the devastating drought in the Karoo region and the impact of Covid-19. This dropped from 5 431 000 in 2015/16 to 4 361 000 in 2020/21. These sheep numbers include ewes, rams, and lambs, with lambs usually around 80% of the total. But in the Karoo region, the share of lamb slaughters has recently dropped to 65% of all slaughtered sheep.

Where are most sheep slaughtered?

Almost a third (32%) of all sheep slaughtered in South Africa are slaughtered in the Northern Cape.  In the 2015-2017 period, it was as high as 40% but declined to 25% in the last year or two because of the drought. The three provinces that make up the Karoo region – Eastern Cape, Western Cape, and Northern Cape jointly account for 64% of all sheep slaughtered in South Africa. If we take the data from the abattoirs in these provinces’ Karoo region, then around a quarter (25%) originate from the Karoo region.

What was the impact of the recent drought on monthly sheep slaughter numbers in the Karoo?

Taking the data from all 14 major abattoirs in the Karoo, we can identify the impact through the decline of the monthly slaughter numbers in the Karoo. Essentially, the Karoo abattoirs have faced financial difficulties, especially in the past three years.

NB: This blog post benefited from the work of Prof Johann Kirsten of Stellenbosch University.

Follow me on Twitter (@WandileSihlobo). E-mail: wandile@agbiz.co.za

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