The first quarter of 2021 saw South Africa’s merchandise exports increase by 20.2% from the same period last year, amounting to R406 billion, although it experienced a slight decline of 2.6% from the previous quarter (Q4 2020). Though South Africa’s exports have been on an increasing trend, recovering from the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic experienced in the second quarter or 2020, the large year-on-year increase seen in this quarter is partially reflective of a low base in 2020 as South Africa and most global economies were affected by the early lockdown of China as a result of COVID-19 outbreak, which disrupted global supply chain resulting in a drop in exports.
South Africa recorded an eighth straight positive quarter trade balance of R93 billion (US$6.3 billion). In US dollar terms, merchandise exports grew by 26.6% from Q1 2019, amounting to US$27 billion, while imports increased by 8.9% to US$20.9 billion.
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