I have been writing for a while about South Africa’s agricultural performance in 2020, but with full-year trade data now available, we felt compelled to revisit the subject.
South Africa’s agricultural exports amounted to US$10,2 billion in 2020, which is a 3% increase from the previous year. This is the second-largest level after the record exports of US$10,7 billion in 2018. The exports were primarily underpinned by large domestic agricultural output, which was supported by favourable weather conditions. The relatively weaker domestic currency also made South Africa’s agricultural products more competitive in the global market. The top ten exportable products by value were citrus, grapes, wine, apples and pears, maize, nuts, sugar, wool and fruit juices.
Over the same period, South Africa’s agricultural imports fell by 8% year-on-year to US$5,9 billion. The decline in imports of poultry meat, sugar, spirits, sunflower oil, prepared animal feed, beer made from malt, fish, and coffee were the underlying drivers of the softer imports in 2020. This was enough to overshadow the increase of the top-three products South Africa typically imports, namely, rice, wheat and palm oil.
The fall in imports, which corresponded with an increase in exports, subsequently led to a 26% year-on-year increase in South Africa’s agricultural trade surplus to US$4,3 billion.
This is an extract from my weekly column for Fin24, and you can read the full article by clicking here.
Follow me on Twitter (@WandileSihlobo).