Trade surplus increases as export growth outpaces imports

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SARS on Wednesday released trade statistics for February 2021.
SARS on Wednesday released trade statistics for February 2021.
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  • The trade surplus increased to R28.9 billion in February, exceeding economists' expectations.
  • The surplus is attributable to higher exports, which increased by 16.4%, imports also increased but at a slower pace of 1.6%.
  • The trade surplus increased to R28.9 billion for February, on the back of higher exports.


The South African Revenue Services (SARS) on Wednesday issued the latest trade statistics for February 2021.

The market consensus was for the surplus to expand from R11.8 billion to R18.8 billion.

In a note issued before the data release, Investec economist Kamilla Kaplan highlighted that exports in February usually pick up, compared to the seasonal decline in January. February's Purchasing Manager's Index also indicated that global export demand picked up during the month. "Imports will continue to be tempered by weak domestic economic activity," said Kaplan.

According to SARS' data, exports increased by R18.14 billion or 16.5% between January and February 2021. By comparison, imports increased by R1.6 billion or 1.6%.

The trade surplus stands at R41.38 billion for the year to date, which is higher than the R10.28 billion surplus recorded for the same period last year.

The trade highlights show that the lift in exports is broad based, noted Investec economist Lara Hodes. "Specifically, vehicle and transport equipment exports rose by a marked 73%. Conversely, most major import categories experienced declines, besides mineral products and original equipment components," said Hodes. 

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