South Africa’s economy has staged a solid recovery in the third quarter – with every single sector growing after the devastation of the second quarter, when the country was basically shut down in the first phase of lockdown.
Manufacturing, trade and mining saw strong growth, and there was also a notable jump in construction work, after eight straight quarters of contractions, says Momentum economist Sanisha Packirisamy.
The economy grew by 13.5% compared to the previous quarter, after a massive 17.5% contraction in the second quarter. Still, the latest GDP data shows that, after the first three quarters of the year, the South African economy was 7.9% smaller than a year ago.
Some sectors have been absolutely decimated by the lockdown and the pandemic’s impact on demand, given mass retrenchments and continuing uncertainty. The construction sector, for example, shrank by 20% in the first nine months of the year. Manufacturing (-15%) also contracted while trade, catering and accommodation – which includes the ravaged tourism and restaurant industries – shrank by almost 11%.
There are only two sectors that actually grew in the first nine months of this year: government services (+0.8%) and agriculture, which is now 11% bigger than a year ago. The sector boomed this year thanks to bumper summer crops, strong exports and solid prices.
After a lean 2019 due to foot-and-mouth disease and various droughts, good rains have fallen in many parts of the country this year. The country’s 2020/21 winter barley and canola harvests are expected to be the largest on record, while wheat production is predicted to reach a 19-year high, and the maize harvest is expected to be a third bigger than last year.
Exports of various produce have also been strong. For example, South Africa may export almost 10 billion pieces of citrus fruit this year, in what is expected to be one of the best seasons on record. This was thanks to a solid local harvest – but also strong demand, especially in Europe, for vitamin C as the coronavirus caused consumers to become more conscious of protecting their immune systems.
Maize exports increased by 235% to 963,441 tons in the third quarter, compared to the same period last year, reports Paul Makube, Senior Agricultural economist at FNB Agri-Business. “On the back of a bullish weather outlook with the La Niña pattern having taken hold above 90% chance for Southern Africa, agriculture’s outlook for the year ahead is even more positive,” says Makuba. La Niña, a weather pattern that begins in the Pacific Ocean, usually brings more rain to South Africa.
The preliminary intentions to plant report for summer crops indicates a 5% increase in planted area for the 2020/21 season to 4.15 million hectares. “This is likely to increase further in subsequent reports given the high commodity prices and better production conditions.”
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