South Africa swings into a R23 billion trade deficit

 ·1 Mar 2023

South Africa recorded a preliminary trade balance deficit of R23.05 billion in January 2023.

Despite recording a full-year total trade surplus of R211.6 billion (exports of R2.02 trillion and imports of R1.81 trillion) in 2022, South Africa is importing more than it was exporting at the start of 2023.

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) said that the preliminary trade balance deficit of R23.05 billion for January 2023 is due to exports of R139.36 billion and imports of R162.41 billion.

The deficit of R23.05 billion is a significant decline from January 2022’s R4.64 billion trade balance surplus.

Compared to January 2022’s data, exports in January 2023 increased by 6.1% (from R131.39 billion to R139.36 billion), and imports by a massive 28.1% (from R126.76 billion to R162.41 billion).

Exports also decreased on a month-to-month (MoM) basis from December 2022 – decreasing by R23.48 billion to R139.36 billion (-14.4%), while imports increased MoM – from R157.85 billion to R162.41 (2.9%) – over the same period.

SARS said that the December 2022 preliminary trade balance surplus was revised downwards by R0.45 billion due to the ongoing Vouchers of Correction (VOC). The revision was from the preliminary trade balance surplus of R5.43 billion to the revised trade balance surplus of R4.98 billion.

The trade statistics get worse if trade data with Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho and Namibia (BELN) is excluded.

The preliminary trade balance deficit excluding BELN for January 2023 was R30.26 billion. This was a result of exports of R126.81 billion and imports of R157.07 billion.

Exports in January 2023 decreased MoM by R20.82 billion (-14.1%) while imports increased MoM by R3.22 billion (2.1%) over the same period.

Despite only one month of data available for 2023, the preliminary cumulative trade balance deficit currently stands at R30.26 billion contrasted to the R2.63 billion trade balance deficit during 2022.

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