South Africa’s trade balance swung to its largest deficit in more than a decade in January as exports of major commodities and machinery fell sharply, wiping out a previous 12 months of consecutive surpluses.
Africa’s most industrialised economy has benefited from higher global demand for commodities, particularly from resource-hungry China, such as gold, metal and coal driven by faster economic growth in Europe and Asia.
The trade balance in January swung to 27.66 billion rand ($2 billion) deficit, far beyond market expectations of a 5 billon rand shortfall, from a revised 15.3 billion rand surplus in December, according to South African Revenue Service (SARS) data released on Wednesday.
Exports fell by 22.6 percent to 80.5 billion rand on a month-on-month basis in January, while imports rose 21.9 percent to 108.2 billion rand, the SARS said in a statement.
Exports of vehicles and transport equipment plummeted by 47 percent, those of precious metals were down 34 percent, while mineral sales fell 21 percent in the month.
Exports to Asia fell by the most month-on-month, sliding by nearly 11 million rand.