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Platinum prices boost SA exports to US

Published date:
Friday, 24 August 2007

The US bought $4.4 billion (R32 billion) worth of South African goods in the first half of the year, according to figures from the US International Trade Commission, an increase of about 20 percent over the first six months of last year. The figures were published on the African Growth and Opportunity Act ( website this week.

The growth can be attributed largely to higher prices of platinum group metals (PGMs), a major component of local exports to the US, according to Peter Draper, a research fellow at the SA Institute of International Affairs.

While platinum export volumes have remained stable over the past few years, prices rose sharply in the first half, according to Ron Sandrey, a senior research fellow at the Trade Law Centre for Southern Africa.

Roger Baxter, an economist at the Chamber of Mines, said the production weighted basket of PGM revenue rose 22 percent in the first six months compared with the same period last year.

Sandrey said prices for rhodium and iridium, "which are becoming a significant part of the platinum group exports to the US" rose by more than this - iridium by 243 percent.

Agoa's sectoral breakdown of South Africa's US exports shows metals and minerals were by far the biggest in terms of value - at $3.2 billion in the first half, an increase of nearly 25 percent over the same period last year. The next biggest export by sector is transportation equipment at $322.2 million, up only 3.5 percent; followed by chemical products at $254.6 million, up 11 percent.

South Africa's main import from the US is transport equipment, valued at $772.4 million, 28 percent higher than in the same period last year.

Nico Vermeulen, the executive director of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers, said in terms of vehicle volumes, exports to the US in the first half were flat, while imports rose 49 percent. Automotive component exports had "continued to grow significantly".

While South African export growth to the US remains strong, it has slowed since last year, when growth was 27 percent. The slowing was due to a deceleration in growth of metals and minerals exports, from 35 percent last year. Similarly, first-half growth in the PGM revenue basket was lower than last year's leap of 49 percent, according to Baxter.

Agoa gives access to the US to about 7 000 product items, most of them energy-related products, textiles and apparel, and transportation equipment. Of South Africa's $4.4 billion first-half exports, little more than $940 million were Agoa related.

Exports to the US from Africa rose only 8 percent to $29 billion in the first six months compared with growth of 19 percent last year. Of the total, $22.7 billion were Agoa related.

The slower growth was largely due to a 4.4 percent fall in the value of Nigeria's exports - to $13.9 billion. Disruptions to Nigeria's oil production were responsible for the poor export performance in the six months. This is unlikely to improve, according to the International Energy Agency, which recently forecast little or no increase in Nigerian oil production in the immediate future.

[Ethel Hazelhurst]

“ Latest AGOA Trade Data currently available on

Click here to view a sector profile of South Africa’s bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated by total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.

Other regularly updated trade statistics on include: (click each link to view)

  • AGOA-Beneficiary Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Aggregates

  • AGOA Trade by Industry Sector

  • Apparel Trade under AGOA’s Wearing Apparel Provisions

  • Latest Apparel Quotas under AGOA

  • Bilateral Trade Data for all AGOA-eligible countries individually.

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