The chamber’s chief economist, Wandile Sihlobo, said a large harvest, joint efforts by the government and the private sector to keep agriculture operational since the start of the lockdown, and long-term efforts to develop export markets continued to pay off for the agricultural sector.
“In the third quarter of 2020, South Africa saw record quarterly exports of $3.2 billion (about R49.3bn), which is an increase of 5 percent on a year-on-year basis. The growth in agricultural exports was primarily underpinned by citrus, wine, maize, nuts, deciduous fruit and sugar cane,” said Sihlobo.
Agbiz said these products would continue to support South Africa’s agricultural exports in the last quarter of this year.
Sihlobo said citrus had featured prominently throughout the year, and exports for this year were expected to reach a record 2.5 million tons.
Similarly, wine exports were expected to continue to improve in the last quarter of the year, following the restriction of sales in the domestic market for a certain period during lockdown and the disruption of exports in the same period.
“This all happened in a season where South Africa’s wine production was in recovery mode from a volume perspective, with the 2020 wine grape harvest estimated to be up by 8.2 percent to 1.3 million tons. The same goes for maize, whose 2020/21 exports are estimated at 2.5 million tons, up by 35 percent, mainly on the back of a large harvest, which is the second-largest on record. The same goes for other products that already featured prominently in the exports list in the first three quarters of the year as a result of large production volumes,” Sihlobo said.
The agricultural sector had benefited from the co-operation between the government and business in ensuring the functioning of value chains and logistics during the lockdown, and this was evident in the export data, he said.
“Overall, South Africa’s agricultural exports could increase in 2020 from 2019’s $9.9bn to more than $10bn. The catalyst will be the increase in grains and horticultural output, and, to a certain extent, the weakening domestic currency, which increases the price competitiveness of the South African agriculture and food products in export markets,” said Sihlobo.