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The USDA GAINS (Global Agricultural Information Network) report this week included an Exporter Guide for the South African market, and naturally curious, we opened it.

In 2018, South African imports of agricultural products were $6.6 billion, down 1 percent from the previous year. The EU accounted for 28 percent of total agricultural imports, Eswatini (Swaziland) 10% (well done!), while 5 percent was from the United States.

Goods from USA (worth $305 million) included chicken products ($69 million), food preparations ($24 million), enzymes ($18 million), wheat ($8 million), almonds ($14 million), corn (maize) seed ($16 million), animal (not fish) guts, bladders, stomach & parts ($12 million), food/drink ingredients ($11 million), sorghum ($4 million), edible frozen livers of bovine animals ($6 million), animal mixed feeds ($9 million), and protein concentrates ($4 million).

Overviews are given on the country, its economy and consumer behaviour, and market conditions. Its SWOT analysis (verbatim) is:

  • Strengths: Advanced economy with well-developed infrastructure
  • Weakness: Limited technical capacity and weak political will by regulators contribute to trade barriers and delays in resolving access issues.
  • Opportunities: Sophisticated and growing middle class. A well-developed retail sector, and linkage to the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Threats: FTA with EU. A political preference towards BRICS countries.

(We were interested to read that the middle class makes up about 70 percent of the South African population and 55 percent of total income earnings. And that “in the past five years the percentage of the population earning less than R5,000 ($333) per month decreased from 56 percent to 40 percent, while the percentage of the population earning more than R5,000 ($333) per month increased from 44 to 60 percent”).

While the agro-food industry is correctly complimented, the report identified six opportunities for US exports to South Africa. The paragraphs below are excerpts from the report: 

Chicken Cuts and Edible Offal

Though South Africa is the region’s leading producer of chicken meat, imports are regularly required to supplement local production and meet domestic demand. In 2018, South Africa imported 520,000 tons of chicken meat, an increase of 2 percent from the previous year to augment local production. Post forecasts a marginal increase in chicken meat imports in 2020 to 555,000 tons, as local production is expected to bounce back.

Find the poultry page at Agribook.Digital here


South Africans are looking to various tree nuts to for more diverse protein and snacks. In 2018, South Africa imported $17.8 million of almonds. The United States dominates the market for almonds, with 83 percent of the total market share, valued at $14.8 million, with Australia in a distant second at 10 percent. While year to year the value has decreased, the quantity of almonds continues to rise steadily. South Africa is the largest importer of U.S. almonds in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Almonds are included on our tree nut page.

Food Preparations

South Africa has a well-developed food processing sector and is a net exporter of food preparations. In 2018, imports of food preparations were valued at $185 million. The EU has the largest market share at 67 percent amounting to $124 million. The United States had 13 percent of the market share of South Africa’s food preparations imports, valued at $24.7 million. Products with good sales potential in this category include sugar confectionery, chocolate and other food preparations, malt extracts, pasta, cereals, cake mixes, syrups, and soup mixes.

Craft Beers and Spirits

South Africa is a net importer of beers, referred to as “beer made from malt.” In 2018, imports amounted to $160 million, and exports amounted to $77 million. Namibia has the largest market share at 48 percent. There are potential opportunities for U.S. exports in this category due to the huge increase in imports from the United States from $399,000 in 2017 to $1.6 million in 2018. Distilled spirits have increased from $15.4 million to $17.1 million.

Read our craft brewing page at

Enzymes and Prepared Enzymes

South Africa is a net importer of enzyme and prepared enzymes. In 2018, imports amounted to $69 million, and exports amounted to $26 million. The United States had the second largest market share with 27 percent, valued at $18.5 million, after Denmark with 35 percent. Potential opportunities for U.S. exports are modified starch products such as whey.

Essential Oils for use in food/drink

South Africa is a net importer of essential oils used in food/drinks, mainly used in food processing. These products are also referred to as “mixtures of odoriferous substances.” In 2018, imports were $478 million, and exports amounted to $54 million. Swaziland was the market leader with 74 percent. There is a potential for growth for U.S. exports in this category due to the demand.

Relevant pages on Agribook.Digital are “Essential oils” and “Herbs and spices“.

Photo above by Matthias Mullie on Unsplash

Find the GAIN reports at

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