Cabinet has approved the publication of a draft strategy to formalise and transform South Africa’s game meat market.

“The game meat industry is predominately an informal industry that operates in a fragmented manner,” Cabinet said in a statement on Thursday.

“The proposed strategy provides an implementation plan that will formalise and strengthen the sector as both a provider of food security and an economic growth sector that can help create job opportunities.”

A presentation by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) in May 2021 indicated that the strategy would provide mechanisms or interventions to “unlock the full economic potential of the game meat industry domestically, regionally and internationally”.

According to the presentation, SA accounted for 86% of all regional game meat exports, valued at $12 million in 2019 (around R191 million currently). It was the also ranked 28th out of 98 countries globally in terms of exports at the time. 

It did, however, acknowledge that there were “perceptions and stigmas” about game meat, especially around being referred to “exotic” meat, and the link to canned hunting practices.

The presentation said many consumers believe that game meat is inferior to chicken, mutton, pork or beef – despite its “health benefits”, and there were misconceptions about its taste and quality.

“[There’s a] lack of awareness that hunting and harvesting of game not only generates revenue, but promotes conservation and sustainable land use management practices with lower carbon emissions than conventional livestock farming,” the presentation said.

A document loaded by the DFFE to its website in 2018 said at the time that game meat contributed R9.1 billion a year to the GDP of South Africa, and that this “has a great potential to increase exponentially as the game meat industry grows”

It said the potential game meat export is estimated at over 60 000 tons which equates to about R4 billion annually, and that formal and informal game auctions generate as much as R500 million each year.