South Africa’s wool exports  increased by 11% in 2023

South Africa’s wool exports increased by 11% in 2023

We are finally seeing some signs of recovery after South Africa’s wool exports sharply declined in 2022. The temporary closure of the Chinese market in the second to third quarters of 2022 weighed on the industry’s exports and farmers’ finances.

China is a major buyer of South African wool and of wool globally. Over the past ten years, China accounted, on average,  for roughly 69% of South Africa’s annual wool exports in value terms. Thus, a temporary closure in 2022 was a major issue. China’s reason for this move was to protect their market from the Foot-and-Mouth Diseases spreading in the South African cattle industry.

But this was an oversight on the Chinese part. There is a unique protocol to handle the wool shipments and avoid contamination during a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in South Africa. South Africa and China agreed on this protocol following the 2019 outbreak, which weighed on exports.

China temporarily suspended South Africa’s wool exports in the second quarter of 2022 and only opened the market in the last week of August 2022.

This resulted in a 21% year-on-year decline in the export value of wool in 2022, to US$255 million, according to data from Trade Map. Still, this is notable, accounting for 2% of South Africa’s record agricultural export value of US$12,8 billion in 2022.

Positively, 2023 was a recovery year. The wool exports lifted by 11% year-on-year to US$284 million. There was an improvement in both value and volumes. The Chinese market remained open, and the share of wool exported to China improved significantly. In 2023, wool accounted for 2% of South Africa’s new record agricultural exports of US$13,2 billion.


Follow me on Twitter (@WandileSihlobo). E-mail: wandile@agbiz.co.za

Why a South Africa-Middle East Agricultural Trade and Investment Strategy is Critical

Why a South Africa-Middle East Agricultural Trade and Investment Strategy is Critical

The Middle East is deepening its economic ties with Africa. This past weekend, The Economist magazine ran an article titled “The Gulf’s scramble for Africa is reshaping the continent“, which focused on growing geopolitical ties and significant investments in infrastructure projects such as ports in various African countries.

The leading countries are the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and Qatar. For countries like South Africa, with diverse interests worldwide, the Middle East’s growing interest in Africa requires proactive engagement, particularly for drawing in investments and opening up the market for exporting sectors of the economy.

Investment need

Agriculture is one sector that needs investment and a broadening of export markets. Consider the eastern regions of South Africa and the former homelands; these areas typically are on the periphery of agricultural progress because of poor land governance and weak infrastructure, which renders them effectively isolated from the formal value chains of the food, fibre, and beverage sectors. In some areas, the transaction costs of moving agricultural produce to the consumption points become too high because of the lack of roads, rail and storage facilities.

In the regions historically part of the commercial farming sector, the deteriorating network infrastructure is also increasingly a significant cost driver for businesses. These include roads, rail, water, dams, storage facilities and the on-farm infrastructure.

It is in these areas of South Africa’s agriculture, food, fibre and beverages value chain that one should ask whether it would be worthwhile to assess if the Middle-East countries that are in search of opportunities to invest would not, with the help of local stakeholders, form commercially viable business ventures that respond to the above challenges. Some investments would form part of joining with South African agribusinesses and farming enterprises that aim to expand their operations and require capital for such activities.

The significant funds in these Middle Eastern countries also have some form of government involvement. The South African government, particularly the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) and the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), should lead the way in the formulation of a “Middle East-South Africa Agricultural Investment Strategy”.

Such a strategy would be helpful in formally starting a conversation with the Middle-East stakeholders and introducing South African firms and farming businesses.

South Africa is heading towards general elections in May, and the political leadership may have its eyes on the election, with perhaps limited time for such tedious but important activities. Still, the officials of the departments will remain regardless of potential changes in the political leadership.

This means the Directors General of the DTIC and DALRRD should consider starting such work and keeping their political leaders apprised of progress. Also, the current political leadership could start prioritizing such work even in the uncertain election climate, as this is a vital programme for the country regardless of the leadership.

Export drive

Beyond the investment need and the challenges South Africa’s agriculture faces, the country is export-oriented, with exports reaching a record US$13,2 billion in 2023, according to data from Trade Map. The Middle East region is increasingly important in the South African agricultural trade. For example, in 2023, Asia and the Middle East accounted for 28% of South Africa’s agricultural exports, the second largest region.

The African continent remains the leading market, accounting for 38% of South Africa’s agricultural exports in 2023 in value terms, while the EU comes in third at 19%, the Americas fourth at 6%, and the rest of the world at 9%.

South Africa primarily exports citrus, apples and pears, beef, fresh berries, grapes, and sheep and goat meat to the Middle East. These industries have a potential for growth in South Africa and, therefore, prospects of large volumes for exports to the Middle East.

Still, if one focuses on the key economies in the Middle East, South Africa plays a peripheral role in agricultural markets. For example, Saudi Arabia imported US$29,5 billion of agricultural products in 2022, according to data from Trade Map. South Africa was a minor exporter, accounting for a mere 1% of the Saudi Arabian imports, and ranked 31st in the agricultural importers list.

Similarly, the UAE imported US$23,3 billion of agricultural products in 2022, with South Africa capturing a mere 2% market share as the 16th largest supplier. Qatar, which imported US$3,9 billion of agricultural products in 2022, with South Africa playing a small role, ranked 10th in the list of suppliers and with a 2% market share in Qatar’s agricultural imports.

The countries that occupied a larger market share in these Middle Eastern countries were generally India, Brazil, Australia, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Denmark, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Russia, France, and Turkey. Regarding the products, the Middle East primarily imports various meat products, grains, oilseeds, and fruits, amongst other products.

This means South Africa would benefit from increasing its market share; something that is only possible through targeted promotion and marketing of products, along with government support to nudge the Middle Eastern countries to address any remaining phytosanitary barriers for South African products in these countries.

Policy consideration

While South Africa faces challenges of drought in the near term, the goal of growing the agricultural sector should remain a priority for all stakeholders. The following should be the next steps in engaging the region:

  • The DTIC and DALRRD should formulate a Middle-East-South Africa Agricultural Investment and Trade Strategy. This Strategy would help rank the priority list of products for investments and map up any barriers that should be addressed within the government’s official channels, with timelines. The document would also outline possible investment paths aligned with industries highlighted in the Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan, as well as the opportunities presented on PLAS land and in the former homelands, amongst other opportunities.
  • The DALRRD should appoint attachés in the Middle-East region who would communicate and lobby for South African agricultural products in the area.
  • The DITC should engage with International Relations officials to actively promote South Africa’s agriculture and agro-processing sector as an investment destination.
  • The private sector and organized agriculture should be involved in all the above stages.

Follow me on Twitter (@WandileSihlobo). E-mail: wandile@agbiz.co.za

South Africa’s agricultural exports hit record despite logistical bars

South Africa’s agricultural exports hit record despite logistical bars

Despite challenges at the ports and in various export markets, the SA agricultural sector has continued to realise excellent export activity. Total agricultural exports reached a new record of $13.2bn in 2023, up 3% from the previous year, according to data from Trade Map.

The products that dominated the export list were citrus, maize, apples, pears, nuts, wine, soya beans, sugar, wool, grapes, berries, avocados and fruit juices. This improved export activity was a function of better volumes and prices. Pricing developments over the year were significantly more varied than the average data suggests. While fruit prices rose, grains and oilseed prices declined notably from 2022 levels.

The exports were widely spread across various key markets. The African continent remained a leading market, accounting for 38% of SA’s agricultural exports in 2023 in value terms. Asia was the second-largest market, accounting for 28% of exports, followed by the EU at 19%. The Americas region was the fourth largest (6%). The remaining 9% went to the rest of the world. The UK was one of the leading markets within this category, accounting for 7% of total exports.

The products exported to these markets were essentially the same, with the African continent and Asia importing a somewhat larger volume of maize, soya beans, wool and beef. Exports to other regions were primarily fruits and wine.

These robust export earnings were achieved despite challenges in SA ports and electricity supply and in critical export markets. Some credit must go to organised agriculture groupings, the government, Transnet and logistical groups that have worked to smooth export flows.

The agricultural industry has established forums to continuously engage with Transnet and enhance communication about problems at the ports so that the response could be swift and drive exports of high-value and perishable products. Still, more work is needed as this success has come at a significant cost to producers and various stakeholders in the value chain.

Trade surplus

SA’s trade is not one way. The country is also a notable importer of various agricultural products. In 2023 agricultural imports amounted to $7bn, down 4% from the previous year, primarily due to a decline in commodity prices, while the volume of imported products remained essentially unchanged from the past year.

The top imported products were rice, palm oil, wheat, poultry and whisky. These products originated primarily from Asia, the EU, the UK and the Americas. Considering this import value against the export value of $13.2bn, agriculture realised a record trade surplus of $6.2bn.

While the recent export expansion is encouraging, SA should stay focused on improving infrastructure efficiency and its export market expansion mission for the agricultural sector.

Agricultural exports remarkably improved in a year featuring severe load-shedding and big logistical infrastructure constraints at ports. In the absence of these constraints, exports could perhaps have been far higher even than the current level.

There is a need for increased investment in port and rail infrastructure and better road infrastructure in the farming towns otherwise the sector’s growth will continue to be constrained. Any expansion of SA’s export markets will require better-performing logistical infrastructure.

The ambition of broadening the export markets is particularly important as various countries increasingly turn inward and raise various kinds of protectionism. Such protectionist tendencies are seen in the EU, and in Southern Africa in countries such as Botswana and Namibia.

This means there is a need to work hard to retain existing markets in the EU and Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Americas, while simultaneously searching for new markets.

Written for and first appeared on the Business Day.


Follow me on Twitter (@WandileSihlobo). E-mail: wandile@agbiz.co.za

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is vital for expanding SA’s agricultural exports

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is vital for expanding SA’s agricultural exports

On February 26, we participated in South Africa-Saudia Arabia Agricultural Ministers engagements in Pretoria. The sessions focused on deepening trade, specifically in beef, sugar, and grains, and investment opportunities within South African agriculture and agro-processing sectors. These are areas the Saudi authorities and businesses wanted to explore.

Some of our members, like Beefmaster Group (Pty) Ltd, Sparta Beef, Red Meat Industry Services (and friends at KARAN BEEF, GRAIN SA/GRAAN SA and BERLIN BEEF) made valuable inputs to the meeting.

In further engagements, horticulture, a pillar of our agricultural trade, will be on the table for deepening trade.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a strategic agricultural export market, and it is fitting that South Africa explores agricultural trade and investment possibilities.

Over the past five years, Saudi Arabia imported, on average, about $20 billion of agricultural products. The dominant suppliers of farm products to Saudi Arabia are Brazil, India, the US, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, France, Turkey and Egypt.

The top imported agricultural products were meat and edible offal, rice, barley, milk and cream, cigars, cheese, live sheep and goats, sugar cane, maize, chocolate, citrus, palm oil, oilcake, bananas, tea, vegetables and fruit juices.

South Africa is a minor player in the Saudi Arabian agricultural market, accounting for less than 2% of all the imports. The essential exportable products to the Saudi kingdom were oranges, lemons, pears, grapes, mandarins, apples, plums, grapes and avocados.

Another product that has recently joined this list is beef, as South Africa now has established market access for exports to Saudi Arabia.

Notably, South Africa is generally a net exporter of some of the products mentioned above that Saudi Arabia imports from the world, albeit mainly concentrated in European, African and Asian markets. Therefore, the possibility of close cooperation and deepening of agricultural trade will benefit South Africa.

Again, this is not to minimize South Africa’s close relationship with the EU, the US, the African continent, or other regions. These current markets remain strategically crucial to South Africa’s agriculture.

South Africa is driven to expand its export markets, and today’s engagements align with this ambition. This is a view or ambition of the South African government and the private sector.


Follow me on Twitter (@WandileSihlobo). E-mail: wandile@agbiz.co.za

South Africa’s beef exports to Saudi Arabia are crucial to industry growth

South Africa’s beef exports to Saudi Arabia are crucial to industry growth

Positive news is often hard to come by in SA these days. We hear daily of the difficulties and costs to business caused by inefficient ports, weakening municipalities, rising crime and deteriorating roads.

Thus, reading the headline “Saudi Arabia to start SA meat imports as ban ends,” on financial news organisation Bloomberg, was refreshing. This development means everything is now in place for the kingdom to import beef from SA.

This comes after several engagements between the SA government and private sector with Saudi Arabian authorities to unlock this market.

Industry organisations such as Red Meat Industry Services and private sector stakeholders such as Karan Beef, Sparta Beef and Beefmaster, deserve much credit for this uplifting development on the beef export front.

Saudi Arabia has not featured prominently in SA’s beef export markets in the past, with only small volumes last exported in the early 2000s. Renewed access to this market is critical to SA’s ambition to expand beef exports, as the Saudi beef market is sizeable, reported to be worth more than $647m in 2021, according to data from Trade Map.

About 62% of Saudi beef imports are frozen products, while the rest are chilled or fresh meat. Leading suppliers to Saudi Arabia include Brazil, Australia, Pakistan, the US, New Zealand and Canada.

Beyond beef, the Saudi meat market is large, with all meat imports valued on average at $1.9bn annually over the past five years. This means over time, as SA increases its production in other meat value chains, Saudi Arabia could remain a strategic country for growing exports.

The positive news of SA export market development provides some relief considering that the local beef industry has faced a challenging operational environment for several reasons. One of the most significant challenges was the rise in feed prices since 2020, especially maize and soybeans.

The rise in animal feed prices coincided with a worsening of financial strain on consumers due to the damaging effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. We thus saw a decline in demand for red meat products as consumers opted for relatively cheaper forms of protein.

In addition, the spread of foot-and-mouth disease to six of SA’s nine provinces for the first time in history proved a major hurdle for the industry. This brought temporary bans in specific export markets, extending to auctions and livestock movement — mainly cattle — for some time in 2022.

Fortunately, feed prices have now softened. This is in response to large domestic maize and soybean harvests and the easing of global grain prices (irrespective of lingering worries about the Black Sea grain deal).

Despite the foot-and-mouth disease challenge, SA beef exports did not collapse. Some markets remained open, though with strict controls. This is evident in SA’s beef exports for 2022, which amounted to 28,422 tonnes (down 12% from 2021), according to data from Trade Map. This is only slightly below the 10-year average.

Fresh beef accounted for 54% of overall exports, while the balance was frozen. Within this total figure a significant decline was recorded in frozen beef exports, which were 12,945 tonnes in 2022, down 24% year-on-year. Meanwhile, fresh beef exports increased by 2% year-on-year to 15,477 tonnes.

The key markets for SA’s fresh beef, accounting for 90% of fresh beef exports in 2022, were Kuwait (22%), Jordan (16%), Mozambique (13%), United Arab Emirates (12%), Qatar (9%), Netherlands (4%), Lesotho (3%), Canada (3%), Zimbabwe (3%), Mauritius (3%) and Eswatini (2%).

In the case of frozen beef, the top export markets for SA were Lesotho (16%), China (14%), Nigeria (14%), United Arab Emirates (9%), Mozambique (7%), Kuwait (6%), Egypt (5%), Qatar (4%), UK (3%), Netherlands (3%) and Jordan (2%). These markets accounted for 82% of SA’s frozen beef exports in 2022.

Overall, the broadening of SA’s beef export markets is a welcome development and shows what the country could achieve through collaboration and aligning interests and efforts between the government and private sector.

These efforts should be extended to other commodities, mainly fruit and wine, where exports could be expanded while retaining existing markets in the EU, rest of Africa, Asia and the Americas. Importantly, addressing the daily challenges at SA ports, roads, and municipalities is equally essential for the success of this export initiative.

I have also published this piece on Business Day and The Herald.


Follow me on Twitter (@WandileSihlobo). E-mail: wandile@agbiz.co.za

Great news for South Africa’s beef industry

Great news for South Africa’s beef industry

One positive bit of news I noticed this morning is about South Africa’s beef industry, with an encouraging headline stating, “Saudi Arabia to start South African meat imports as ban ends“. This means everything is now in order for Saudi Arabia to import beef from South Africa.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has not featured prominently in South Africa’s beef export markets in the past, with only small volumes last exported in the early 2000s. The renewed access to this market is critical to South Africa’s ambition to expand beef exports, as the Saudi beef market is sizable at over US$647 million in 2021, according to data from Trade Map.

About 62% of the Saudi beef imports were frozen beef, while 38% were chilled or fresh beef imports. Some leading suppliers to Saudi Arabia include Brazil, Australia, Pakistan, The US, New Zealand, and Canada. Beyond beef, the Saudi meat market is large, with all meat imports valued, on average, at US$1,9 billion annually over the past five years. This means over time, as South Africa increases its production in other meat value chains, Saudi Arabia could remain a strategic country for growing exports.

Broadly, these positive news of export markets development provides some relief when the South African beef industry has faced a challenging operational environment for several reasons. One of the significant challenges was the rise in feed prices since 2020, especially for maize and soybeans.

The rise in animal feed prices coincided with a worsening financial strain on consumers due to the Covid-19 pandemic’s damaging effects. Thus, we saw a decline in the demand for red meat products as consumers opted for relatively cheaper forms of protein.

Moreover, the spread of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) to six of South Africa’s nine provinces for the first time in history was another challenge for the industry. This brought temporary bans in specific export markets, extending to auctions and livestock movement, mainly cattle, for some time in 2022.

Fortunately, the feed prices have now softened somewhat. This is in response to large domestic maize and soybean harvests and the easing of global grain prices (irrespective of lingering worries about the Black Sea Grain Deal).

Therefore, the opening of beef export opportunities to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia adds to this improving operational environment going forward.

Despite the foot-and-mouth disease challenge, South African beef exports did not collapse. Some markets remained open, although with strict controls. This is evident in South Africa’s beef exports for 2022, which amounted to 28 422 tonnes (albeit down 12% from 2021), according to data from Trade Map. This is only mildly below the ten-year average.

Fresh beef accounted for 54% of overall exports, while the balance was frozen beef. Within this total figure, a significant decline was recorded in frozen beef exports, which were 12 945 tonnes in 2022, down 24% year-on-year. Meanwhile, fresh beef exports increased by 2% year-on-year to 15 477 tonnes.

Overall, the broadening of South Africa’s beef export markets is a welcome development and shows the possibilities the country could achieve through collaboration and aligned interests between the government and private sector.

These efforts of opening key markets such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia should extend to other commodities, mainly fruits and wine, that are eager to expand the export markets while retaining the existing markets in the EU, African continent, and Asia and the Americas, amongst other regions.


Follow me on Twitter (@WandileSihlobo). E-mail: wandile@agbiz.co.za

South Africa’s agriculture within BRICS+

South Africa’s agriculture within BRICS+

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.


Follow me on Twitter (@WandileSihlobo). E-mail: wandile@agbiz.co.za

South Africa’s agricultural exports were robust in Q3, 2023

South Africa’s agricultural exports were robust in Q3, 2023

South Africa’s agricultural exports amounted to US$3.9 billion in the third quarter of this year, up by 4% y/y (according to data from Trade Map). This quarter, the products that dominated the export list were citrus, maize, apples and pears, nuts, wine, soybeans, sugar, and fruit juices.

This solid export activity was both a function of improvement in volumes and prices, specifically of fruits. This more than offsets the effects of lower grains and oilseed prices, which have declined notably from their 2022 levels.

Overall, South Africa’s agricultural exports amounted to US$10,2 billion in the first nine months of the year, up 1% from the same period in 2022.

This export activity was mainly before the intensified challenges at the South African ports. Given that the inefficiency challenges at the ports and in railway lines are not new, the agricultural export’s success resulted from continued collaboration between the industry and Transnet to improve the logistics at the ports.

The South African agricultural industry has established forums to continuously engage with Transnet and enhance communication about problems at the ports so that the response could be swift to drive the exports of high-value and perishable products. Still, as evidenced by the worsened logistical efficiency since the start of the fourth quarter of this year, more work and investment are needed to improve the efficiencies.

From a regional perspective, the African continent remained the largest market for South Africa’s agricultural exports, accounting for 32% of the exports in the third quarter of 2023. Asia and the Middle East were the second largest regions, with a 31% share.

The E.U. was the third largest region, accounting for 19% of the agricultural exports, with the Americas region at 7%. The U.K. is also one of the largest single markets for South Africa’s agricultural exports, accounting for 6% of the exports in the third quarter. The remaining 5% was spread to other various regions of the world.

Regarding imports, South Africa’s agricultural imports fell by 7% y/y in the third quarter of this year to US$1,8 billion (This is according to data from Trade Map). As with the previous quarters, the products that still dominate the import list are wheat, rice, palm oil, whiskeys, sunflower oil and poultry. Wheat and palm oil were the main drivers of the decline in the value of imports.

South Africa’s agricultural imports amounted to US$5,3 billion for the first nine months of the year, down by 7% from the same period in 2022.

Positively, South Africa had an agricultural trade surplus of US$2,1 billion in the third quarter of 2023, up 15% y/y.

The path ahead and policy considerations

While South Africa’s agricultural exports remain encouraging, we think export earnings will likely soften this year from the 2022 record exports of US$12,8 billion. The relatively lower commodity prices and volumes in various products and the intensified logistical constraints in the last quarter of the year may weigh on the export value this year.

Beyond these near-term challenges, 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 Saudia 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 come from China, 12% from 12% from India, 8% from Russia, 4% from Brazil and 3% from South Africa.

The key agricultural products the 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, while I have reflect on the excellent near-term agricultural trade performance, the focus 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.


Follow me on Twitter (@WandileSihlobo). E-mail: wandile@agbiz.co.za

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