21 July 2020 – Real exports of goods and services decreased by 0.6% in the first quarter of 2020, following a similar increase in the fourth quarter of 2019. The exports of both mining products (including gold) and services contracted, while that of manufactured products increased alongside a sharp acceleration in the growth in agricultural exports. The decline in total mining exports reflected lower export volumes of precious metals (including gold, PGMs and stones) as well as base metals and articles, while travel services weighed down total services. By contrast, strong growth in the export volumes of chemical products as well as vehicles and transport equipment boosted manufacturing exports, while vegetable products boosted overall agricultural exports.
The real imports of goods and services contracted further in the first quarter of 2020 as the import volumes of all the major goods and services components declined, reflecting weak demand amid the recessionary environment. The lower domestic demand for mining products was broad-based, in particular for precious metals (including gold, PGMs and stones). Contractions in the real import volumes of machinery and electrical equipment; prepared foodstuffs, beverages and tobacco; and chemical products weighed down the real value of manufactured imports, while the decline in vegetable imports reduced overall agricultural imports. The contraction in the total real imports of services was compounded by lower travel services, impacted by global travel restrictions following the outbreak of COVID-19.
Real net exports contributed 4.6 percentage points to real GDP growth in the first quarter of 2020 as real net manufacturing and agricultural exports added 4.6 and 0.6 percentage points respectively. The real net exports of machinery and electrical equipment contributed the most to overall manufacturing exports at 2.2 percentage points. In the mining sector, the contribution of the real net exports of mineral products was more than fully countered by the detractions of the real net exports of precious metals (including gold, PGMs and stones) as well as base metals and articles. Source (Tralac)