South Africa’s agriculture exports overshot the US$10-billion mark for the first time last year, up 15% from 2016, with the sector recording a record positive trade balance of US$3.3 billion - Wandile Sihlobo, Agbiz economist
South Africa’s agriculture exports overshot the US$10-billion mark for the first time last year, up 15% from 2016, with the sector recording a record positive trade balance of US$3.3 billion.
This according to agricultural economist Wandile Sihlobo, who attributed it to growth in the export of fruits, vegetables, beverages, spirits and grains.
Imports also increased last year, although marginally, by 5%, compared to the previous year at US$6.7 billion. This growth was driven by an uptick in grain imports – particularly wheat and rice – on the back of reduced domestic production as a result of the Western Cape drought and an increase in domestic consumption.
“In the case of rice, South Africa is traditionally a nett importer, and we saw imports growing by 10% to 1.1 million tonnes in 2017 due to higher demand,” Sihlobo said.
Africa and Europe retained their status as the largest markets for SA’s agri exports, collectively representing 67% of total exports. Africa’s market share increased a single percentage point last year due to export growth in relatively competitive industries such as beverages, cereals, fruit, sugar and vegetables.
Sihlobo pointed out that in 2017 the trade impact of the Western Cape drought had been minimal and would only be felt in 2018’s trade statistics as table grapes and major vegetable products were set to decline by double digits from the 2016/17 production season.
“From the domination of beverages and fruits in the exported products across almost all regions, the decline in production in 2018 owing to the Western Cape drought could have a notable impact on total export value,” he said.
According to Sihlobo, the only mitigating factor could be better values for beverage products. He added that weather, global prices and the rand’s performance would remain key factors in South Africa’s trade performance this year.
Agbiz Head: Agribusiness Research
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