Looking at the African market

Jean-Pierre GarnierJust back from Central Africa, it is worth reflecting on these important markets. After Asia, Africa is the main region where British meat is exported outside Europe. The mission we organised was not for the faint-hearted. For example, this was the first ever British commercial mission to take place in Kinshasa, the metropolis of Central Africa. Visas, immigration procedures and difficult logistics add to the difficulty.

However, direct contacts and building relations with importers as well as understanding their needs made the trip worthwhile. British exporters responded with enthusiasm and we fielded a 13-strong team with a good representation of the main pork and beef exporters.

The visit confirmed the current meat price deflation in these low value, price-driven markets. This is affecting particularly poultry with chicken leg quarters quoted as low as US$ 700 per tonne, nearly half the price paid in 2014. International beef offal prices are also markedly down. International pork prices are somehow firmer. The good news is that Indian beef prices are up and, as they compete with European flanks, our product is much more competitive and back in demand. Having tasted some Indian beef in African dishes, I know which product I would choose!

The surprise came from the limited range bought by many importers in response to local demand. Ox tails and beef tails are strong favourites. Pig trotters and green tripe are also well liked. Africans enjoy the taste of strong meats for pot cooking. For example, they favour hen meat over chicken meat, green tripe over blanched tripe. However, many other cheap items are simply not sold.

Evidently, the fall of the price of petrol, metal and primary commodities is affecting the local economies, some of which are having to retrench. There are some exceptions such as Côte d’Ivoire which has a wider, mainly agricultural economic base and the Democratic Republic of Congo (RDC) whose economy grew by 9.4% in 2014 and is poised to increase by 6.7% this year, again on the basis of a wider variety of raw material exports. The RDC is a sleepy giant in Africa; with a young population of around 80 million and 2.3 million square km, it has an extraordinary economic and agricultural potential (so has Angola in smaller measure) which only needs political stability to flourish. However, the large population of the region of Bas Congo that includes Kinshasa will still rely for a long time on meat imports.    

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