Data from the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz), which represents commercial farmers and agribusiness enterprises, showed that the sector overcame the tough start to the year and recorded a trade surplus of US$660 million in the first quarter, up 11 percent from the same period last year.
Agbiz said the surge in the surplus was primarily a result of an 18 percent year-on-year decline in the value of imports to $1.45bn. It said its data showed that the African continent and Europe continued to be the largest markets for South Africa’s agricultural exports, respectively accounting for 44 percent and 30 percent in value terms.
Asia was the third-largest market, taking 18 percent of South Africa's agricultural exports in the quarter under review.
In a market update, Wandile Sihlobo, the head economist at Agbiz, said exports were underpinned by grapes, wine, apples, pears, wool, fruit juice, apricots, cherries, peaches and maize. “We expect these products to continue driving South Africa's agricultural exports in the second quarter of 2019. With that said, maize might not feature prominently, as we think South Africa’s 2019/20 maize exports could fall by 55 percent year-on-year to about 1 million tons owing to an expected lower harvest.”