The prolonged drought gripping parts of the Eastern Cape and other meat producing areas of the country is likely to cause a sharp increase in red meat prices this festive season.

The Red Meat Producers Association says this is largely due to the fact that farmers are forced to reduce their livestock numbers due to a lack of grazing. This has created a demand and supply imbalance.

Mchewula village outside Whittlesea is one of the drought-stricken areas in the Eastern Cape province. The area has not had sufficient rain for the past three years. Grazing camps are abnormally dry for this time of the year and as a result  farmers have resorted to cutting down their livestock in an attempt to avoid more deaths. Many animals have already have died due to lack of grazing.

Andile Mrwebi is a subsistence farmer who lost livestock as a result of drought: “The last farmers association meeting that we had was in the last week of September, they were counting about 20, that is the last meeting where we could get the statistics and some of them kept on dying from there on, these old cows. We are held unfortunately at ransom by the weather, I think this should be a lesson to us that we need to take proper steps in intensifying the program that we are doing of the holistic land and livestock management.  If we were better prepared, I think the situation would have been much better.”

Rolf Pretorius, from the Red Meat Producers Organisation, says consumers will continue to feel the pinch as there is no hope that weather conditions will improve soon. “We expecting the meat price to go up in December and stay high as a result of lack of stock that is in the market. You can understand that with three years of drought, the farmers have been reducing their stock because they have to had the necessary grass.”

Commercial farmers are relying on their resources to survive but it is getting harder by the day.