The South African Revenue Service (SARS) yesterday said that the trade balance surplus shrank to R51.24 billion in April from a downwardly revised R52.57bn in March on declining exports. Picture: Henk Kruger/ANA/African News Agency
The South African Revenue Service (SARS) yesterday said that the trade balance surplus shrank to R51.24 billion in April from a downwardly revised R52.57bn in March on declining exports. Picture: Henk Kruger/ANA/African News Agency

SA’s trade balance surplus shrinks to R51.24bn, says SARS

By Siphelele Dludla Time of article published Jun 1, 2021

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The South African Revenue Service (SARS) yesterday said that the trade balance surplus shrank to R51.24 billion in April from a downwardly revised R52.57bn in March on declining exports.

The outcome was notably above Bloomberg consensus expectations of a R37.5bn surplus. April’s trade balance print suggested that the modest month-on-month decline in exports was largely broad-based, with only the precious metals category rising.

Data from SARS showed that exports went down by 3.9 percent to R161.47bn weighed down by fewer shipments of mineral products, vehicles, aircraft, vessels and transport equipment.

SARS said exports decreased by R6.61bn between March and April. Exports to Asia, the largest export destination, declined by 1.4 percent. It said imports also fell by 4.6 percent, or R5.29bn, over the same period to R110.23bn on fewer purchases of machinery and electronics, chemicals, and original equipment components.

Imports from Asia, the most relevant origin of imports, fell 10.6 percent. The trade balance has recorded a surplus for 12 consecutive months, with South Africa’s exports benefiting from elevated commodity prices and rising demand in its major trading partners.

Measured on an annual basis, SARS said the R51.24bn trade balance surplus for April was a notable improvement from the R36.09bn trade balance deficit recorded in April 2020.

April’s strong reading was also supported by results from the JP Morgan global manufacturing PMI for April. The JP Morgan PMI indicated that “new orders and new export business both rose at the quickest rates since May 2010”.

Investec economist Lara Hodes said robust commodity prices, coupled with strengthening global demand, should continue to buoy export growth.

Hodes said some estimates suggested that the volume of world merchandise trade could grow by 8 percent in 2021 after having fallen 5.3 percent in 2020.

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