South Africa's agricultural export activity will likely soften this year from the 2021 record of US$12,4 billion. Lower production of key crops, animal disease spread and changes in phytosanitary regulations in key markets such as the EU will all weigh on the export activity this year.
The changes in export volumes and values might not show in the year's first half but will likely reflect in the second half of the year. South Africa's agricultural exports for the first five months of this year amounted to US$5,06 Billion, up just 2% from the corresponding period in 2021. Over this period, the European Union, United Kingdom, Japan, United Arab Emirates and several African countries were still the primary markets. Citrus, maize, apples and pears, wine, dates, figs, nuts, fruit juices, and wool were amongst the most dominant exportable products.
In the case of citrus, the EU imposed protectionist measures on agriculture in July 2022 by changing its plant safety regulations for citrus without notifying its trading partners within a reasonable time. The new regulation purports to protect the EU from a quarantine organism, false codling moth, by introducing stringent new cold treatment requirements, particularly on citrus imports from Africa, mainly impacting South Africa, Zimbabwe and the Kingdom of Eswatini. South Africa has put rigorous measures in place to control false codling moth, which the EU uses as a pretext to restrict citrus imports from Africa. Hence, we view this as a cover to protect the EU's citrus-growing countries like Spain and will increase costs to the Southern African citrus growers.