The total local import and export container trade market experienced consistent 10% year-on-year growth during the third quarter, a similar result as in previous quarters, container shipping company Maersk Line Southern Africa reports.
“On face value, [this] is remarkable growth. The main hallmark of South African container trade at present, however, is less about robust growth and more about volatility, Maersk Line Southern Africa trade manager Matthew Conroy pointed out.
However, he added that while the 10% year-on-year growth was encouraging, it was not a true reflection of real growth as, when taking into account the significant container trade market contraction recorded in 2016, this growth is actually only about 2.5%.
Looking at imports and exports, Conroy says that the two markets are shaping up slightly differently, with exports growing at a faster pace than imports. “Year-to-date , 45.3% of the container trade was a result of exports, compared to 54.7% imports, which is slightly up from a year ago’s 44.7%, but well above the 2012 figure of 42.3%. So, there has been a continuing ‘balancing of trade’, which is largely due to the increase of export mining commodities, including chrome and manganese.
The import market has grown by 9% year-to-date, with the majority of this growth coming from Asia (13%), which represents 53% of imports into South Africa. Compared to 2015, 2017 has seen no market growth. The main reason for this volatility is that in 2016, inventory stocks were run very low, whereas this year, stocks was replenished to a higher degree.
Considering the sluggish consumer spending seen in the current market, Conroy suspected that there would be a future slowdown in import market growth. It is likely that the rest of the year will continue at a similar rate as year-to-date, but 2018 would probably see a slowdown of low single digit growth.
While the export market has grown by 12% year-to-date, there has only been 5% since 2015, when taking 2016 into account. Exports have clearly shown steadier growth than imports. The markets to Asia and Middle East are growing at the fastest rate because of higher demand for mining commodities in India and China, whereas manufactured exports were stagnant.
Refrigerated exports have grown by 9% year-to-date, but by 14% in the third quarter, which is mostly due to a strong citrus crop, coupled with strong demand overseas for South African fruit.
Regarding expectations going forward, Conroy said that mining commodities should continue to grow, while refrigerated exports would see flat growth.