South Africa’s trade surplus declined for the third consecutive term to R61.4 billion in the first quarter of 2022, representing the lowest trade surplus since mineral prices began to rise in 2020 largely as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Imports, which declined to their lowest level since the early 2000s, have continued their upward trajectory, from R266 billion in the second quarter of 2020 (at the peak of the COVID-related lockdown) to about R397 billion in the first quarter of 2022. This is higher than pre-pandemic levels, exceeded only by the R401 billion reported in the third quarter of 2013. Moreover, this represents 20% growth compared to the first quarter of 2021. Exports remain at historic levels, although they declined from R475 billion in the fourth quarter of 2021 to R458 billion in the first quarter of 2022. In contrast to imports, which show significant year-on-year growth, exports increased by just 6% in the year to the first quarter of 2022. Still, the R458 billion represents the highest reported first quarter exports (in constant 2022 Rand) reported by South Africa thus far.
Updated October 2022