WASHINGTON: SA recorded its first trade surplus in five months for November, as exports grew 10.3% compared with October and imports fell 13.5%, according to figures from the South African Revenue Service (SARS).
The recent weakening of the rand should be positive for the manufacturing sector as it makes SA’s goods more competitive in global markets, while making imports more expensive. A weaker rand also brings in more revenue from commodities such as platinum, gold and coal, which are dollar denominated. However, the prices of those commodities have dropped over recent years.
SARS said SA’s trade surplus in November was R1.77bn, including trade with neighbouring Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland (BLNS), from a revised trade deficit of R21.60bn in October.
The cumulative deficit for the 11-months to end November is R58.18bn, which is 42.1% lower than the R100.48bn deficit for the same period in 2014. The biggest increases in total exports in November were precious metals and stones, up 52%, and vehicles and transport equipment, up 16%. The most significant decreases in imports were of equipment components, down 45%, and of machinery and electronics, down 14%.
If trade with the BLNS countries is excluded, SA recorded a trade deficit of R7.45bn from a revised R31.4bn deficit in October. The cumulative trade deficit excluding BLNS was R155.74bn, from R196.53bn in 2014.
Over the 11-month period, excluding trade with Africa, SA’s biggest trading partner was Asia, where it sold R275.4bn of goods and bought R457.9bn. The second biggest market was Europe, which took R220.4bn of SA’s exports and accounted for R315.1bn of imports.
This is significant because Asian and eurozone economies are slowing and only the US, SA’s fourth-biggest trading partner, is showing growth. SA’s exports to Asia have fallen 0.9% between January and November compared with the same period last year, according to SARS figures. Excluding BLNS countries, SA has exported R153.1bn of goods to Africa and imported R79.9bn.