In February 2023, South Africa recorded a preliminary trade balance surplus of R16.1 billion, according to the South African Revenue Service (SARS).
When including trade with Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho and Namibia (BELN), South African exports totalled R154.3 billion while imports totalled R138.2 billion.
However, the year-to-date (01 January to 28 February 2023) preliminary trade balance deficit of R6.6 billion marks a major deterioration from the over R17 billion trade balance surplus recorded in the same period in 2022.
This decline is primarily due to a R22.7 billion trade deficit recorded in January 2023 – brought down from R23.1 billion due to the ongoing Vouchers of Correction.
The R154.3 billion export flows mark a 7.95% increase from February 2022’s export flows of R143.0 billion.
Import flows of R138.2 billion were also 5.8% higher than the R130.6 billion in February 2022.
On a month-to-month basis, exports increased 10.7% ( R14.9 billion) from R139.4 billion in January, with imports decreasing by 14.8% (R23.9 billion) over the same period.
The export flow in February was driven by passenger and goods vehicles, with OEMs returning to full production.
The lower importation of crude and petroleum oils led to a decline in the value of imports.
The preliminary trade balance deficit of R23.1 billion in January 2023 was revised downwards by R0.34 billion to R22.7 billion due to the ongoing Vouchers of Correction (VOC).
China was the biggest export market for South Africa, accounting for 10.6% of all exports.
The United States (7.4%), Germany (7.4%), India (6.8%) and Japan (5.6%) made up the rest of the top five countries South Africa exported to.
South Africa also imported the most (20.4%) goods from China.
Germany (8.4%), the United States (8.0%), India (7.0%) and the United Arab Emirates (3.9%) made up the rest of the top five import markets for South Africa.
When excluding the BELN trade data for February, South Africa’s preliminary trade surplus reduces to R7.0 billion, with imports totalling R133.2 billion and exports totalling R140.3 billion.
The preliminary cumulative trade balance deficit for 2023 of R22.9 billion is still far off the R0.8 billion trade balance surplus recorded in 2022.
Month-on-month, exports increased by R13.3 billion (10.6%) between January to February, with imports decreasing by R23.6 billion (-15.0%).
Read: One positive sign for South Africa’s economy in 2023
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