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.

International business environment

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

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

According to the UN, it is estimated that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will boost intra Africa trade by 53% by eliminating import duties and non-tariff barriers. This agreement is potentially poised to create an African market of more than 1.2 billion people with an economy worth US$2.5 trillion (Baker McKenzie, 2018). Find the latest on the AfCFTA at


Also on the Trade Law Centre (Tralac) website find The African Continental Free Trade Area: A tralac guide (December 2019), a Trade Data Analysis on the different African countries, and other publications.


Read the African Development Bank African Economic Outlook page at


Find articles on the progress of AfCFTA under the “Some articles” sub-heading at the bottom of this page.


South Africa: imports and exports



Namibia and Botswana are amongst South Africa’s most important global trading partners. When looking at intra-Africa trade, it is notable that more than 50% of that intra-trade takes place within SACU, and more than 60% takes place among the member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). South Africa is a clear driver of intra-Africa trade.

Over the past two decades, an important structural shift in South Africa’s trade relations has taken place – China has come into the picture as (now) South Africa’s most important export destination and import source (looking at individual countries rather than trade blocs such as the European Union, which remains most important).

TRALAC Newsletter, Issue 9, February 2019.



South Africa’s top 10 agricultural export products in 2019, ranked by value: (1) Oranges (2) Grapes (3) Wine (4) Apples (5) Wool (6) Sugar (7) Lemons (8) Mandarins (9) Maize (10) Macadamia nuts (Sihlobo, 2020).


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

Trade terms (Incoterms)

Incoterms are standard trade definitions most commonly used in international sales contracts. Devised and published by the International Chamber of Commerce, they are at the heart of world trade.

Incoterms include:

CIF Cost, Insurance and Freight
CPT Carriage paid to
DDU Delivered Duty Unpaid
EXW Ex Works
FOB Free On Board

Visit the website of the International Chamber of Commerce for more information –

Export tips

Avoid not having a written contract in place – whether it is with a supplier or receiver. This contract is to state the payment and delivery terms.

To avoid fraud and being tricked out of money, when you are pursuing a new deal it is vital for you to:

  • Check the credentials of the company – in most countries, businesses must register and be licensed before they can operate. You can check with the companies’ registry in the relevant country. Check that the contact details exist and belong to the relevant company.
  • Consider shipping your goods only after receiving money in your account, especially for new deals. Check the authenticity of bank documents. If payment is by Letter of Credit, request confirmation from your bank.
  • Avoid sending too much of stock as samples. For high-value products, request payment for samples and/or payment of shipping costs. Invest in a proper and detailed brochure as a substitute for samples.
  • Ask your potential clients as many questions as possible; their registration, licence number, physical address, banker, their affiliation to any trade body or association in their country. A serious buyer usually doesn’t mind answering such questions.
Source: Advice from the Africa Desk at Wesgro (the official trade and investment promotion agency of the Western Cape).

South African Revenue Service (SARS)

Find the SARS page for exporters at

All importers and exporters in South Africa are required to register with the Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (SARS). Form DA 185 (plus the relevant annexures) for importers and exporters, as well as clearing agents and warehouse licensees, must be completed and submitted to SARS.

Forms are to be submitted to the SARS office closest to the area in which the applicant’s head office is situated. Upon registration, applicants are issued with a unique customs code number. The registration process normally takes about two to three weeks.

Find notes on the legislative framework (the Customs and Excise Act, 1964 (Act 91 of 1964), at

Contact details of head office, Revenue Branch Offices (provincial), Customs Offices and more are on the website,

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic)

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic) has played a critical role in the promotion of economic development and in increasing exports in selected target markets.  In partnership with the Provincial Investment Promotion Agencies (PIPAs) (see “Providers of financial services” page), it undertakes export promotion activities, specifically in markets that are aligned to South Africa’s international relations and co-operation agreements.

Find the “Trade and export” menu option on the website,

The Export Promotion Directorate is responsible for developing and promoting South African goods and services including specific technical interventions in terms of EMIA financial support, matchmaking, market intelligence, trade lead facilitation and in-market support. Find more information at


International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC)
Tariff investigations: 012 394 3720 / 695
Trade remedies: 012 394 3570 / 394
Import-export control: 012 394 3590/1

Find export application forms on the website.


Trade and Investment South Africa (TISA)

Tel: 012 394 9500


Read about the Trade Invest Africa initiative on the dtic website.

The Export Help Desk provides South African firms – small, medium and large enterprises – with export information and advice. The objective of the help desk is to respond to client enquiries within 24 hours. It offers the following services:

  • Export Information and advice;
  • Export-readiness assessments;
  • Sector reports;
  • Trade lead bulletins;
  • Export enquiries;
  • Trade opportunities;
  • Information on export incentives;
  • Statistics on trade between South Africa and other countries;
  • Guides on doing business with other countries;
  • Calendar of export-awareness seminars;
  • Global Exporter Passport Programme training, international trade missions and national pavilions
  • Linking South African exporters with importers

For more information, contact the help desk at 0861 843 384 or email exporthelpdesk [at]

The dtic provides financial assistance to registered exporters which meet certain performance criteria. Promoted under the banner of EMIA (the Export Marketing and Investment Assistance Scheme) partial compensation is available to exporters in respect of costs incurred, development export markets.

Read about the Integrated National Export Strategy (INES) and the National Exporter Development Programme (NEDP) on the dtic website.

The Exports Barrier Monitoring Mechanism (EBMMA) is single channel to report export barriers: email ExportBarriers [at], or find more information online.

The Team Export South Africa (TESA) workshop is an annual event targeting Export Councils, government and stakeholders in the export value chain. It is hosted by the dtic.

 For more information please visit or phone 012 394 1014 / 1029 or 1146.

Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD)

For various notes on exports, look under the “Import and export services” option on For notes on the different directorates, click on “Branches”.


In terms of the regulations and the principal Act (the Agricultural Produce Standards Act, 1990), approval must first be sought and obtained before agricultural produce can be exported from South Africa.

The regulations set out:

  • The approval process that must be followed in order to obtain necessary consent for export
  • Details pertaining to the pre-export inspection, including the inspection procedure and laboratory testing requirements
  • The fees relating to inspection and analysis
  • The appeals process offences and penalties

Directorate: International Trade Tel: 012 319 8451/2 DITR [at]
The directorate works closely with the dtic. It is responsible for agricultural input for trade policy. It participates in trade negotiations and implementation of trade agreements, trade research and trade intelligence. The directorate also puts out various publications (like the Step-by-step Export Manual for the South African Fruit Industry) to help people enquiring about exporting.


Directorate: Animal Health

  • Tel: 012 319 7456 Mpho.Maja [at]
  • Animals and Animal Products Tel: 012 319 7514/ 7632 / 7503 / 7414 VetPermits [at], WeekendM [at]

This Directorate controls and certifies the health status of animals/animal products for import or export, including the provision of quarantine facilities. It also negotiates protocols on the import and export of animals/animal products.


Directorate: Plant Health

  • Tel: 012 319 6091 / 309 8702 KgaboMa [at]
  • Plants and Plant Products Tel: 012 319 6102/6130 / 6207 PlantHealthPermits [at]

This Directorate ensures compliance with international plant health obligations and responsibilities, thereby creating an environment for safe imports and exports. Find the Import and export notes under the Plant health option at

NPPOZA (National Plant Protection Organisation of South Africa)


Directorate: Marketing Tel: 012 319 8455 MogalaM [at]


Directorate: Food Safety and Quality Assurance

  • Tel: 012 319 6023 BillyM [at]
  • Liquor Products Tel: 011 971 5138 / 012 319 6137 SiboneloN [at], ThysL [at]

Find the various Export certification procedures under the Food Safety and Quality Assurance option at


Directorate: Food Import and Export Standards Tel: 012 319 6118

All food business operators (FBOs) of legislated agricultural products of plant origin intended for export are required to register with DALRRD. The purpose of these registrations is to ensure that producers, packers, processors and freight forwarders are in line with the internationally set traceability requirements. Visit

The Agricultural Trade Forum (ATF), established by the National Department of Agriculture, facilitates the entire agricultural industry with regard to international trade. It is housed under the Chief Directorate: Economic Development, Trade and Marketing. Call 012 319 6910 or email LouwrensTh [at]

Look for the government gazette notices under the “Resource Centre” and “Publications” options at

Back in 2015, the Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP) recognised that smaller farmers are excluded from international markets because of the increasing standards of food safety – the technical requirements and compliance capacity involved. It recommended interventions that would 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 DALRRD should further guide the integration of smallholder farmers into global markets.


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

Other government departments and state bodies

  • National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) Tel: 012 341 1115 The NAMC is involved in several ways here, from export promotion activities to supporting new agribusinesses in their endeavours to export their products. Read about the different divisions on the website.
  • Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) Tel: 021 930 1134 The PPECB provides a comprehensive service to exporters, which includes the inspection and approval of equipment such as containers, specialised reefer vessels and cold stores; monitoring loading processes and the en-route temperature management of produce. The PPECB was the implementing agent for the South African Pesticide Initiative Programme (SA PIP) and SA PIP 2. Smallholder farmers were trained on responsible pesticide use, food safety, agricultural practices and legislation. This was to introduce these producers to expectations of exporting to the EU. They constitute only a small percentage of those who export fruit and vegetables and so there is huge potential here.
  • Some provincial departments of agriculture work to identify export markets for agricultural produce in the province. In the Western Cape, for example, Louw Pienaar has identified African markets (and associated risks) in a report. Write to him at louwpp [at]
  • Reserve Bank Several relevant contact details are available on the website
  • South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) Tel: 012 428 7911

The global Halal food and beverage market was valued at US$1.3 trillion in 2017, and forecast to reach US$1.9 trillion by 2023 (State of the Global Islamic Economy Report, 2018/19). The Middle East and in particular the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which import 80% of their food requirements, represents the greatest potential market for South African Halal Certified products. Another market is European countries with large Muslim communities (e.g. UK, France and Germany). The dtic 2018/19-2020/21 Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) targeted the halal market, and the WESGRO document “Halal FAQ’s for food and beverage exporters” included contact details of halal certifying bodies. The Western Cape Department of Agriculture has information on the halal value chain. See

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Other role players

Associations and NGOs

  • Many Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) members are agricultural exporters. Find useful information on trade relations, trade agreements etc. at Several documents specifically look at agricultural exports.
  • Agbiz is a member of Business Unity South Africa (BUSA). See its website at or phone 011 784 8000.
  • Some Chambers are geared towards trade between two countries e.g. the French South African Chamber –; the Southern African German Chamber of Commerce –; Southern Africa-Switzerland –; South African-Netherlands – etc.
  • The Fairtrade movement aims “to enhance trading conditions for small scale businesses, improve labour conditions for employees and empower communities through ethical and sustainable trade”. Read about Fairtrade South Africa at
  • Find a list of fruit exporters at, or call the Fresh Produce Exporters’ Forum (FPEF) at 021 526 0474.
  • NEDLAC Tel: 011 328 4200
  • The Farm Animal Unit of the National Council of SPCAs monitors the export of live animals from East London and Durban harbours. Visit
  • Responsible Packaging Management Association (RPMASA) Tel: 032 947 1145

South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF)

Tel: 011 455 1726


The role of the freight forwarder, alternatively called the ‘shipping and forwarding’ or ‘clearing and forwarding’ agent, is to ensure that cargo is transported across international boundaries in the most efficient and economical way.


The agent should be able to advise the exporter on the following aspects:

  • the best mode of transport for the goods, whether by sea, air, rail, road or a combination of these;
  • schedule and transit times of the various transport services;
  • the most suitable packing; rates and insurance premiums;
  • freight rates; costing for export; compliance with maritime and other statutory obligations;
  • marking of cargo; and
  • all technical aspects of international forwarding.

Agents also handle customs clearance, including related documentation needs and exchange control requirements, and any other permits required by law. Most agents have an international network of branch offices or associates, which enables them to give advice on the importing country’s regulations.

  • South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) Tel: 011 446 3800
  • Find “Export advice & info” at, website of the South African Footware & Leather Export Council (SAFLEC).


Export councils

In partnership with the dtic, Export Councils have been given a forum to address all obstacles and proposals that may affect their ability to export successfully. This takes the form of a National Export Advisory Council, chaired by the Minister. The export council’s database may be found on Included are organisations like the Fresh Produce Exporters’ ForumFarmed Abalone Export CouncilSouth African Flower Export CouncilWines of South Africa (WOSA)South African Ostrich Business Chamber and the SA Fruit and Vegetable Exporters’ Council.

Various industry associations and Joint Action Groups are also involved. Find all contact details on



Commercial banks assist with export credits, guarantees and letters of credit. The Credit Guarantee Insurance Corporation of South Africa administers an export credit insurance scheme on behalf of the dtic. Also involved are regional and province-specific state role players e.g. WESGRO and Tshwane Economic Development Agency (TEDA). Find details of these on the “Providers of financial services” page.

African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund
c/o Department of International Relations and Co-operation



Credit insurance products


Credit Guarantee

Find the export credit insurance under the “Products and services” menu. The purpose of the scheme is to finance small to medium-sized businesses which lack the financial resources to execute export orders. The scheme enables the prospective exporter to obtain finance from a number of participating banks.


The Export Credit Insurance Corporation of South Africa Limited (ECIC) located within the Department of Trade and Industry

A project can qualify for 85% finance if a South African content of at least 50% of the total project value is achieved.


Industrial Development Corporation (IDC)


JSE Limited

If you are an exporter, foreign exchange is one of your top risks. A rand futures market exists allowing agribusinesses and farmers to hedge themselves against negative movements in the exchange rate, reducing risks and uncertainty.


Lombard Insurance Group

Credit insurance products


Prestige Credit Insurance Consultants

Credit insurance for protection on your dealings with exports debtors


Santam Marine



Import/export trade finance experts


Logistics and transport


Training and research

AgriAcademy SA Tel: 021 880 1276 The export readiness training course is an agriculture-focused distance learning course for the producer who plans to start exporting.

Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) facilitates training workshops for SMMEs interested in exporting. Visit or phone 011 784 8000.

The chamber movement addresses all issues affecting the business community, including exporting. Find out how your nearest Chamber of Commerce can help you. We list some of these below:

Customs Services (Pty) Ltd Tel: 011 397 5370

The Department of Trade & Industry (the dti) runs the Global Export Passport Initiative, a training programme for companies and small exporters. To find out more, contact 0861 843 384 or email geps [at]

Freight Training (Pty) Ltd Tel: 011 450 4140

Top of the Class (TOC) is a well-known training programme for the fruit industry, initiated by the Fresh Produce Exporters’ Forum (FPEF) more than ten years ago. Find details on

Global Maritime Legal Solutions (GMLS) Tel: 044 813 0052/011 425 1840 Training and consulting in exporting

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) BRICS Research Centre Tel: 012 302 2000

International Trade Institute of South Africa (ITRISA) Tel: 011 807 5317 Short courses and distance education: Certificate in International Trade, Advance Certificate in International Trade as well as National Diploma in Export/Import Management.

Maritime, Ports, Transport and Logistics Academy (MPTLA) Offers short courses and management development programmes

North-West University School of Economics Tel: 018 299 1438 Ilza.havenga [at]  


  • B Com – majoring in Economics and International Trade, which specialises in imports and exports
  • Hons B Com in International Trade
  • M Com in International Trade
  • PhD in International Trade

Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management Ernst Idsardi – 018 299 2484 Ernst.Isardi [at]

The Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) is involved in programmes to build capacity. The Agri Export Technologist Programme is one of these. Find more at

Skills Development Specialists Tel: 086 1111 3987

The South African Board of Standards (SABS) offers training courses for GlobalG.A.P. Find contact details under “Other government departments and state bodies” heading.

South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) Tel: 011 339 2021

TIPS Tel: 012 433 9340

TMS Training Services Tel: 011 853 2777 Training courses include Ships Chartering, Trade Finance and Forex for better Business.

Trade Law Centre for Southern Africa (TRALAC) Tel: 021 880 2010 “Building capacity to help Africa trade better”

TRADE Research Advisory (Trade and Development) Wilma.viviers [at] Research niche areas – focusing research on export promotion and identifying South Africa’s export opportunities. See here.

The University of Cape Town runs an “Import and Export Management” short course. Take a look at or call 021 447 7565 for more information.

University of South Africa (UNISA) Centre for Business Management Tel: 012 429 4376 A 12-month, distance education certificate course in exporting is offered.


Consultants and other services

The various umbrella bodies like the South African Table Grapes Industry offer exporters information and services.
  • AgriBusiness Systems international (ABSi)
  • Agrihub provides real time shipping information for the fruit industry. See
  • The Agricultural and Industrial Marketing Company secures trade and finance instruments from banks, finds logistics solutions for communities, does project management and more. Visit
  • Bamic Enterprises provides covers and equipment for containers. See
  • Biozone Tel: 011 791 4403 prolong the lifespan of products in storage and in transit
  • BMI Research Market research activities
  • Christopher Richards Consultancy consults to the local and international freight industry. Take a look at
  • Customs Services (Pty) Ltd
  • DFM Technologies Tel: 021 904 1154 (For software that allows the user to create chemical and fertiliser instructions required for GLOBALG.A.P., Nature’s Choice and the export market).
  • Euromonitor Cape Town Tel: 021 524 3000 Market research activities
  • Expand Into Africa Tel: 021 786 3005
  • Hilton Lambert Trade law specialists
  • Nielsen Company South Africa market research activities
  • The Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) offers various services to exporters. Find contact details under “Other government departments and state bodies” heading.
  • TRADE (Trade and Development) Wilma.viviers [at] (research niche areas – focusing research on export promotion and identifying South Africa’s export opportunities). The World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva awarded one of its prestigious Chairs in 2014 to Prof. Wilma Viviers.
  • Veterinary Import-Export Authority (VIEA) helps solve issues relating to agricultural products. See


Provincial Government support

All provinces have trade and investment promotion agencies. Find their details on the “Providers of financial services” page.

The Western Cape Investment and Trade Promotion Agency (Wesgro) launched a web-based trade portal in 2012 that allows Western Cape businesses to register their companies and products and to engage with foreign importers. It also runs workshops in the use of incoterms and participating in the international environment. Visit


International trade organisations



Visit websites of role players mentioned on this page.

  • Find the US Department of Agriculture guides for exporting to several global destinations (including South Africa) at
  • Care to find out how countries fare in the competitive rankings? Two reports are the World Competitiveness Report (produced by the IMD Business School in Switzerland), and the Global Competitiveness Report (produced by the World Economic Forum in Switzerland). Visit and
  • Find the trade briefs, working papers etc at (Trade Law Centre for Southern Africa). Download the latest weekly customs, excise, tariff and trade remedy summary notification.
  • Read the information on on trade relations.
  • COMESA, EAC and SADC implement a Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) reporting, monitoring and eliminating mechanism. See
  • – the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI) provides market information, export promotion, matching, advice on import enquiries, and environmental information for exporters from developing countries.
  • – read about “everything that is not happening at the WTO”
  • FreshPlaza: global fresh produce news,
  • Southern Africa’s Freight News
  • FTW Online “for import/export decision makers” –
  • The CTA’s monthly news update on agricultural trade issues – subscribe at
  • – “Your online export helpdesk”
  • – Foreign Agricultural Service (the United States Department of Agriculture)
  • International Air Transport Association (IATA)
  • International Trade Centre (ITC), the “Development partner for export success” –
  • – International Trade Centre website for “trade statistics for international business development”
  • – Market Access Map, “making import tariffs and market access barriers transparent”
  • – the global information resource for business and travel.
  • – this website lists companies worldwide who supply food.
  • World Bank
  • World Customs Organisation –


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