Since 1994, South Africa’s has excelled in opening up new markets, as evidenced by several free trade agreements with regional and international markets. The country exports roughly half of its produce in value terms. The top exportable products are high value and labour-intensive horticulture produce, a subsector that expanded significantly over the past two decades. Citrus, table grapes and a range of deciduous fruits dominate the export list. This means international trade has become crucial for sustaining farm profitability and job creation in South African agriculture.
Over the past decade, agriculture and agro-processing exports have averaged 11% of the country’s overall exports, up from 9% in the decade before. This shows South Africa’s success in opening export markets, and farmers’ ability to produce high quality products that meet global standards and needs.
Unfortunately, South Africa’s agricultural sector remains vulnerable on two fronts. It is too reliant on a few markets and there are inefficiencies in the domestic logistics chains.
That is why firstly, there should be a greater effort to increase access to existing and new markets. Secondly, there should be an increased focus on improving the efficiency of logistics to move produce domestically and to export markets.
In the second quarter of this year, citrus was still the top exportable agricultural product by value in South Africa, although down by 22% from the second quarter of 2021. The loss of the Black Sea market since the start of the Ukraine war might have also contributed to the slowing of exports. Before the war, Russia accounted, on average, for 7% of South Africa’s citrus exports in value terms. It also accounted for 12% of South Africa’s apples and pears exports.
In the second half of this year, South Africa’s agricultural exports rose by 5% year on year, reaching US$3.4 billion. The top exportable products were citrus, maize, apples, pears, wine, grapes, figs, dates, avocados and nuts, among others. We expect some of these products to have continued to dominate the export list in the third quarter.