Table of Contents


1. Overview

Farmers in the 21st Century are greatly influenced by international commodity markets, the exchange rates, and the flow of produce between countries. The domestic price of commodities in most countries is very close to import parity (the landed price of an imported product) as farmers compete with each other for markets.

A growth in exports will be crucial to this country meeting its job creation goals and balancing its trade deficit (when we import more than we export).

As long as the global economic system creates countries that are better able to produce products more efficiently (and cheaper) than others, the world trade system – and exporting – will continue unabated.


2. Local business environment

a) The following are included in the trade agreements to which South Africa is party:

  • Southern African Customs Union (SACU)-European Free Trade Association (EFTA) FTA
  • SACU-MERCOSUR Preferential Trade Agreement
  • EU-SADC EPA, replaces the South Africa-European Union (EU) Trade Development and Co-operation Agreement (TDCA).
  • Southern African Development Community (SADC) FTA
  • USA Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)
  • A memorandum of understanding exists between South Africa and China.
  • The Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) was launched in 2015 to cover the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The deal will come into force once it has been ratified by two-thirds of the 26 member states.
  • SACU-India Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) (not finalised)

Find information on the trade agreements on websites like,, and

b) Most South African agricultural exports go to Africa. The EU, Asia and the Middle East are other major markets.

Exports to Africa are mainy cereals, dairy, fruits and vegetables, vegetable oils and beverages; exports to Europe, edible fruit and wine; exports to the Middle East, edible fruits, nuts and beef exports. Agricultural exports to Asia too have grown. These have been mainly cereals, frozen fish and sugar.

South Africa's agriculture exports increased to R127.85 billion in 2017 from R112.07 billion in 2016, boosted by growth in edible fruits, beverages, spirits as well as prepared fruits, vegetables and nuts. Imports of agriculture products increased by 21% in 2016, from R76.10 billion in 2015 to R91.81 billion. The import value of agriculture products decreased by 5% to R 86.93 billion in 2017, led by processed products such as prepared foods, meat, sugar and beverages.

Notes taken from the DAFF minister’s budget speech, May 2018, and an article by Wandile Sihlobo (Agbiz), October 2016, which can be found at

“On the international front, the changing global environment and increasing standards on food safety excludes smaller farmers to play a critical role in international market access. Over and above this is the cost to access foreign markets. Stringent sanitary and phytosanitary, private standards, labelling and other technical requirements have gone beyond compliance capacity of many smallholders. Lack of market access could constrain growth and the targeted jobs that the sector intend to create” [Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP), p 116].

APAP recognises that exports orientated programmes should be integrated at early stage of production. Interventions should include:

  • Direct assistance for smallholders, like providing training and a technological upgrade in terms of standards for production, quality, packaging and delivery (to enable smallholder farmers to meet export market requirements).
  • A focus on business networking events, including trade shows, business to business and direct buyer’s engagements.
  • The trade strategy developed by DAFF should further guide the integration of smallholder farmers into global markets.

The APAP document sets out several steps involved, identifying lead departments/agencies and those who are to support them.

Trade data is given on (see the “Customs and Excise” menu option). Included are overviews on the country’s trade agreements. See also and the web pages of the Directorate International Trade at