Conroy said import and export markets had declined year on year by 8 percent and 12 percent, respectively. He said the 2016 first quarter Maersk trade report showed economic restraints and less demand for South Africa’s commodities negatively affected trade levels.
The weakening import market was mainly due to a 13 percent decline in imports from Asia. “This trade lane represents about 45 percent of total imports into South Africa and is dominated by manufactured goods, which are on the decline due to lower consumer consumption in South Africa. Looking forward, we do not expect import trade to improve drastically very soon as there are no clear signs of an economic recovery, which is ultimately what is required to fuel incremental consumer spend,” Conroy said.
However, he said the smaller Middle East trade lane grew by 10 percent. “This is largely related to a local sourcing change, where more retail products are being sourced from the Middle East and less from Asia.”
Maersk said earlier this year that the drought would lead to a dip in fruit exports from South Africa because of reduced production of citrus, apples and pears.
“Despite ongoing stimuli from the Chinese authorities, the Chinese economy is still struggling. The drought has also contributed to the overall decline in export trade as it has reduced the amount of animal feed and fruit exported,” Conroy said. He said export trade was, however, poised for “a minor provisional” improvement.