In 2018, South Africa’s agricultural exports grew by 7% y/y to US$10.6 billion, a record level in a dataset starting from 2001. This was underpinned by increased exports of oranges, grapes, wine, maize, apples, wool, lemons, mandarins and pears, amongst other products. Over the same period, imports increased marginally to US$6.7 billion. The key imported products were rice, wheat, offal, palm oil, whiskey, live cattle and oilcakes for animal feed. Overall, this subsequently led to a 21% y/y increase in South Africa’s agricultural trade balance to a record US$3.9 billion.
The preliminary planting data showed that South Africa’s area planted to maize is 2.3 million hectares. About 1.3 million hectares is white maize, with 1.0 million hectares being yellow maize. This came as a surprise as we, at the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa (Agbiz), had a projection of 1.98 million hectares. I suspect that the late plantings might have been more than anticipated following early January rainfall.
The data we have for the first 11 months of 2018 shows that South Africa’s agricultural exports for 2018 amounted to US$9.9 billion, which is 0.5% lower than 2017’s full year exports. This is according to data from Trade Map. We are yet to see what the overall 2018 agricultural exports value will be when December 2018 trade statistics are released, but the available data corroborates Business Day’s headline that the Western Cape drought had minimal impact on exports in value terms.