The Agriculture sector has improved dramatically in the last couple of months. The so-called miraculous improvement could be attributed to a combination of efforts. A large harvest, joint efforts between the government and the private sector to keep agriculture operational since the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown, and long-term export market development efforts continue to pay off for South Africa’s agricultural sector. In the third quarter, the country recorded record exports of $3.2bn, a 5% increase year on year. This growth was mainly improv by citrus, wine, maize, nuts, deciduous fruit and sugar cane.
Earlier in the year, there was concern about logistical challenges at the ports and general uncertainty over global trade due to disruptions caused by the pandemic to supply chains and the debilitating effect of lockdowns on demand. On the domestic side, this is mainly due to joint efforts by the government and the private sector to guarantee constant communication about challenges the industry faced, and action thereafter to resolve glitches.
These helped exports enabled South Africa to achieve an agricultural trade surplus of $1.7bn in the third quarter, a 35% increase on the corresponding period last year. Agricultural imports additionally helped this robust trade balance with an annual decline of 16% to $1.5bn.
South Africa’s agricultural exports are yet on target to increase from 2019’s $9.9bn to more than $10bn this year. The catalyst will be the increase in grains and horticultural output and to a certain extent the relatively weak domestic currency, which increases the price competitiveness of South Africa’s agriculture exports in overseas markets. This essay first appeared on Business Day on 24 November 2020.