Agriculture needs ‘new growth frontiers’ for exports

Despite facing multiple difficulties, both at home and abroad, the South African agricultural sector had increased exports for the third successive year, according to leading agricultural economist Wandile Sihlobo.

However, if the country was to retain and build on this good performance it needed to search for new markets, he said in an article in The Conversation.

South Africa now exports roughly half of its agricultural produce in value terms and was a net exporter of agricultural products.

The major export crops were maize, wine, grapes, citrus and other fruits, sugar and wool. Beef exports were increasing.

In 2022, South Africa’s agricultural exports reached US$12.8 billion, up 4% from the previous year. Imports, nevertheless, remain significant, averaging US$6.6 billion over the past five years. 

In 2022, the top imported products were rice, palm oil, wheat, poultry and whiskies. 

As domestic production grew, South Africa would need new markets for expanded harvests. It should explore “new growth frontiers” beyond the typical markets in the African continent, Europe and parts of Asia.

“The priority countries for expanding agricultural exports should be China, South Korea, Japan, the US, Vietnam, Taiwan, India, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, the Philippines and Bangladesh. All have sizeable populations and large imports of agricultural products,” Sihlobo said.