The South African agricultural sector has recorded a 16% increase in its trade surplus for the first quarter of 2020, amounting to R13,2 billion. This was despite the disruptions in the sector brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist at Agbiz. He explained that the disruptions were minimal, as the food sector in general continued to function around the world during this time.
During the first quarter of the year, in the period before the global lockdown regulations were implemented, the South African agricultural trade was flourishing. This has gone up 16% year-on-year, while exports have increased at a greater rate than imports have. The current exports include maize, wine, macadamia nuts, and wool, among others, Sihlobo added.
These products are expected to continue supporting the country’s agricultural exports during the second quarter of the year. There may however be a decline in wine exports which were periodically impacted by the national lockdown regulations.
Citrus would be a key feature in the agricultural sector from the second quarter onwards, while exports are expected to reach a record of 143,3 million cartons for the Southern African region, he continued.
According to Dr Sifiso Ntombela, senior agricultural economist at the National Agricultural Marketing Council, the country’s total trade balance has decreased compared to the same period last year. However, the agricultural sector performed well despite facing certain challenges regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
“From January to April, the exports of live animals and animal products were up 9,8%, vegetable and fruit exports were up 35,7%, and fats and oil products were up 20,8%. Processed food exports were down 4,2% compared with the corresponding period in the previous year,” Dr Ntombela added.
The imports of fruit and vegetable products, and fats and oils, have also increased by an average of 34% compared to the same period last year.
Overall, the statistics show that with the exception of the wine, cotton, and wool industries, the South African agricultural sector has been minorly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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