For the first time in South African history, a breeder’s society has taken the initiative to attend an International Food Expo on behalf of its members. The Wagyu Society of South Africa and its affiliate, Certified Wagyu Beef (CWB), undertook the responsibility of establishing a booth at the Hong Kong Food Expo. This decision was driven by the aim to assist its members in their efforts to export Wagyu beef. Exporting remains a paramount objective for CWB and the Society, intended to establish price parity within the market.

Once the decision was made to participate in the fair, the Society promptly initiated discussions with the Red Meat Industry Services (RMIS) and other relevant government organisations (whose sponsorship we sought) to secure backing for the event. RMIS showed wholehearted support for the endeavour, providing logistical assistance. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, DTI could not extend financial support. Two of the largest Wagyu suppliers, Karoo Wagyu, and Protea Wagyu, collaborated with CWB, offering both financial support and representation at the booth.

During the event, a glaring observation was the underrepresentation of the South African agricultural sector. Among the various pavilions sponsored by their respective Departments of Agriculture, the Certified Wagyu Beef (CWB) booth stood as the sole exhibitor representing South Africa. While these pavilions showcased a diverse range of agricultural products from each country, the CWB booth was the lone representative for South Africa.

Finalized set up of the Wagyu Booth at the Hong Kong Food Expo

Amidst this international backdrop, CWB received numerous requests for Wagyu, commodity beef, and other red meat products, including goat meat. Additionally, there was a demand for specific niche items such as rooibos tea. Notably, comments frequently highlighted that South African products boast good quality but remain challenging to procure. Despite the substantial demand for South African products in Hong Kong, the difficulties in accessing these products due to their limited availability persist for potential buyers.

Polish chef enjoying South African Wagyu Beef

During the expo, it has become evident that the bulk of volume exports will largely be driven by large entities. However, many buyers are actively seeking personalised products that align precisely with their specific clientele. These buyers lean towards ordering smaller volumes but are willing to pay a premium for exceptional quality. This trend creates an opportune moment for small-scale enterprises and emerging sectors exploring exports to fulfil the demand for customized niche products among these buyers.

To transform this opportunity into reality, the establishment of a streamlined logistics channel is imperative. This logistical framework would empower small to medium enterprises to engage seamlessly. By attaining uncomplicated access to this channel, these enterprises can adeptly furnish their clients with products tailored precisely to meet their stipulated requirements.

When considering the path forward into the future, there are several crucial aspects that demand attention. The current systems and mindset within South Africa lag behind global standards by decades.
It’s imperative for South Africa to consolidate its efforts and showcase its finest agricultural offerings.

As primary producers, relying on representative organisations, large corporations, or other institutions to advocate for our interests and export needs is no longer viable. Primary producers must proactively engage in the export market to achieve true profitability.

The Wagyu Booth was between the European Beef on Asian Markets and Mexico pavilions.

CWB is actively seeking like-minded organisations across the agricultural sector to collaborate. This collaborative effort aims to enhance South Africa’s international market representation and facilitate better access to South African products. Valuable insights gained from the exhibition will be shared with members during the discussion on the Wagyu strategy, scheduled for September 8, 2023, at the annual Wagyu Conference in Franschhoek.

Source: Wagyu South Africa