South Africa is on an export market expansion mission for the agricultural sector. This means there is a need to work hard to retain the existing markets in the E.U., African continent, Asia, Middle East, and the Americas.
In an increasingly divided world where geopolitics are fragile, South Africa must walk a careful path so its foreign policy approach does not result in a negative approach to trade or growing protectionism by traditional trading partners. This is critical for South Africa’s agricultural growth, sustainability, and job creation.
Notably, South Africa should expand market access to some of the key BRICS+ countries, such as China, India, and Saudi Arabia. Other strategic export markets for South Africa’s agricultural sector include South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, Mexico, the Philippines and Bangladesh.
This export market expansion ambition is shared by both the private sector and the South African government. The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition and the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development should lead the way for export expansion in these agricultural strategic markets.
The outcome of the 15th BRICS conference in agriculture also focused on the need to deepen trade within the BRICS+ countries while retaining other markets outside this grouping. This was anchored on the emphasis for BRICS members to lower import tariffs and address SPS barriers that currently hinder deeper trade within this grouping.
The trade and SPS aspect is vital because the BRICS countries collectively imported about US$320 billion of agricultural products from the world market in 2022 (according to data from Trade Map). About 74% of the Group’s agricultural imports were China, 12% was India, 8% was Russia, 4% was Brazil and 2% was South Africa. The value will be much larger now that we are in a BRICS+ environment.
The key agricultural products the original BRICS grouping imports are soybeans, palm oil, beef, maize, berries, wheat, cotton, poultry, pork, apricots and peaches, sorghum, rice, and sugar.
These are products that are produced at scale by some BRICS countries. Yet the imports to other BRICS members typically originate from suppliers outside the grouping because of the tariffs and SPS barriers.
Ultimately, the focus for South Africa’s agriculture going forward should remain on market development and maintenance of the existing markets. This is a matter that should also be well appreciated by the political leadership in the foreign policy space within the South African government.
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