More than seven million years ago ostriches migrated across Africa. These birds became a source of food for the San people and a popular theme for their rock paintings. The San were not the only ones who found these birds fascinating: detailed pictures of ostriches have also been found in ancient Egyptian tombs, Roman generals and their wives wore their beautiful plumes during state functions and Arabs hunted the bird for sport.
Today, ostrich meat, leather, feathers, eggs and a great variety of ostrich curios and gifts are available all over the world. Durable feathers are used in feather dusters and the more colourful and attractive ones in stage productions, carnivals, as fashion accessories and for stylish garments. Globally ostrich meat is regarded as high quality red meat due to the fact that it is low in cholesterol and fat, versatile and tasty.
The largest concentration of ostriches in the world is found in Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape.
2. International business environment
Find information on the World Ostrich Association at http://world-ostrich.org.
- South Africa accounts for around 70 % of the ostriches slaughtered in the world and has a similar stake in the worldwide ostrich population. The country’s climate, experience and expertise are the main factors in its favour. Following an outbreak of avian flu in 2011, the European Union placed a four-year ban on ostrich meat. The ban has since been lifted, and although the market for pre-cooked ostrich meat (overseas as well as at home) has grown, South Africa has not yet regained lost ground overseas.
- Poor economic growth globally has placed a damper on luxury items like ostrich feathers and leather.
- The main competitors are emerging industries in the East and South America, and Australia.
South Africa exports and imports
- The major export destinations for ostrich meat originating from South Africa during 2015 were Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland and France (DAFF, 2016).
- Imported ostrich meat came mostly from Australia and Namibia (DAFF, 2016).
3. Local business environment
Ostrich products are leather, feathers, meat, tourism, arts & crafts. Find the menu options for each product at www.ostrichsa.co.za.
The industry has two good years behind it since the devastation caused by the outbreak of avian influenza in 2011. South Africa’s exports for ostrich meat to the world increased in value by 175% during the period 2014 to 2015 (DAFF, 2016). Prior to 2011, the Ostrich meat, leather and feathers exceed R2,1 billion annually in foreign revenue to the country’s economy. There is still some way to go before this level of success is achieved again.
There are ten EU approved and registered export abattoirs in South Africa and some 588 export registered ostrich farms. Meeting EU and other international requirements is essential for effective marketing. As a result, the industry adheres to the strict EU-requirements; especially regarding full traceability. Find documents relating to this effect at www.ostrichsa.co.za.
The industry has been mainly export orientated because of the international demand for exotic leather products and the trend towards healthier food (like ostrich meat – low in fat and cholestrol). It is mainly influenced by the exchange rate, the international economy, market growth and market stimulation, by supply and demand chain dynamics and animal disease control. Other cost factors which affect this industry include the prices of input supplies (feed, fuel, grain etc.) and production processes.
The domestic market has great potential, particularly in value-add activities like ostrich leather products. The local market for ostrich meat is slowly being developed, but the meat is a nich-market product, aimed at lifestyle-and health-conscious consumers. Processing of meat, such as salami and pastrami are identified as further possibilities.
4. For the newcomer
A nutritionally well fed and well cared for high pedigree female ostrich can easily produce 40 offspring per year, but not before the female bird is three years of age. Coupled with a short gestation period of only 42 days to hatch an ostrich egg, it is easy to see why this is an industry worthy of investigation.
In theory, 500 offspring from one high pedigree female bird can bring a long term and worthwhile farming operation. In reality however, mortalities are high (50% plus) in chicks. Ostriches breed well in a warm climate. Heavy rain and thunderstorms will certainly affect the breeding cycle. High humidity can also be a problem - not necessarily for breeding itself, but for young chicks. High humidity means high bacteria and young chicks are susceptible to catching all kinds of diseases when they are young.
A good supply of natural feed, including alfalfa (lucerne), maize, soy and wheat are a definite advantage as these are staple foods for an ostrich. A mature ostrich consumes 2,5 kg of feed per day. An unlimited supply of fresh, clean water is an absolute necessity. Ostriches drink up to 2 gallons (9 litres) of water every day.
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