Saudi Arabia will start importing South African beef and lamb products as part of an investment push into the continent’s most developed economy.

The kingdom’s Food and Drug Administration lifted a 20-year prohibition on South African meat imports in August, and final approvals to start shipments of halaal cuts to the Middle Eastern nation are now in place, said Matthew Karan, part-owner of Karan Beef, one of South Africa’s biggest meat producers.

“The plan is to start exports in coming weeks,” he told reporters in Johannesburg Wednesday at a South Africa–Saudi Arabia Business Council briefing.

Saudi Arabia has a $2 billion meat market, and lifting the ban — which Riyadh imposed after an outbreak of foot and mouth disease two decades ago — is part of its efforts to forge stronger trade and investment ties as it seeks to diversify its $1.1 trillion economy away from oil.


Saudi Arabia is among five countries that joined China, Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa in the BRICS bloc on Jan. 1, the grouping’s first expansion since 2010. One of the body’s aims is to increase trade and investment between the member nations.

Pharmaceuticals and technology are other areas of potential cooperation between South Africa and Saudi Arabia, with Durban-based Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd. set to work with Saudi companies on endocrine and anesthetic products, said Stavros Nicolaou, Aspen’s senior executive for strategic trade and co-chairman of the two nations’ business council.

The push for exporting beef and lamb products into Saudi Arabia has opened up conversations for other agricultural products including poultry, Nicolaou said.

The country that vies with the US to be the world’s biggest oil producer is plowing millions of dollars into becoming a global supply-chain hub and creating new industries from electric vehicles to pharmaceuticals to meet local demand and for export to the Middle East and Africa.