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Farmers in the 21st Century are greatly influenced by international commodity markets, the exchange rates, and the flow of produce between countries. The domestic price of commodities in most countries is very close to import parity (the landed price of an imported product) as farmers compete with each other for markets.

A growth in exports will be crucial to this country meeting its job creation goals and balancing its trade deficit (when we import more than we export).

As long as the global economic system creates countries that are better able to produce products more efficiently (and cheaper) than others, the world trade system – and exporting – will continue unabated.

International business environment

Find information on main trade agreements between South Africa and the rest of the world on websites like,, and

Visit the Trade Law Centre (Tralac) website at for Trade Data Analysis on the different African countries, and various reports and publications.

Read the African Development Bank African Economic Outlook page at

Find articles on the progress of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) under the “Some articles” sub-heading at the bottom of this page. See also the AfCFTA website,




South Africa: imports and exports

Our agri-food export markets are diverse, spreading across the African continent (37%), Asia (27%), the EU (19%) and the Americas (7%). The rest of the world (which includes the UK and Middle East) makes up the last 10% (Sihlobo, 2023). Exports reached a new record of US$12,8 billion in 2022. Maize, wine, grapes, citrus, berries, nuts, apples and pears, sugar, avocados, and wool were some of the top exportable products. The top imported products were rice, palm oil, wheat, poultry, and whiskies (Sihlobo, 2023).

The following should be priority markets for expanding agricultural exports: China, South Korea, Japan, the USA, Vietnam, Taiwan, India, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, the Philippines and Bangladesh. They have sizeable populations and are large importers of agricultural products (Sihlobo, 2023).

Further reference:

Trade terms (Incoterms)

Incoterms are standard trade definitions most commonly used in international sales contracts. Devised and published by the International Chamber of Commerce, they are at the heart of world trade.

Incoterms include:

CIFCost, Insurance and Freight
CPTCarriage paid to
DDUDelivered Duty Unpaid
EXWEx Works
FOBFree On Board

Visit the website of the International Chamber of Commerce for more information –

Incoterms® 2020 Explained for Import Export Global Trade

South African Revenue Service (SARS)

Find the SARS page for exporters at

All importers and exporters in South Africa are required to register with the Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (SARS). Forms are to be submitted to the SARS office closest to the area in which the applicant’s head office is situated. Upon registration, applicants are issued with a unique customs code number. The registration process normally takes about two to three weeks. Contact details of head office, Revenue Branch Offices (provincial), Customs Offices and more are on the website,

Find notes on the legislative framework (the Customs and Excise Act, 1964 (Act 91 of 1964), on the website.

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic)

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic) has played a critical role in the promotion of economic development and in increasing exports in selected target markets.  In partnership with the Provincial Investment Promotion Agencies (PIPAs) (see “Providers of financial services” page), it undertakes export promotion activities, specifically in markets that are aligned to South Africa’s international relations and co-operation agreements.

Find the “Sectors and Service” and “Trade and Export” options on the website,


International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC)

Find export application forms on the website.

Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD)

In terms of the regulations and the Agricultural Produce Standards Act, 1990, approval must first be sought and obtained before agricultural produce can be exported from South Africa.

The regulations set out:

  • The approval process that must be followed in order to obtain necessary consent for export
  • Details pertaining to the pre-export inspection, including the inspection procedure and laboratory testing requirements
  • The fees relating to inspection and analysis
  • The appeals process offences and penalties

The updated Step-by-Step Export Manual published by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), was compiled with the assistance of the Fresh Produce Exporters’ Forum (FPEF) and is freely available.


For notes on the different directorates, click on “Core business” at The following directorates are of particular interest to our exporting page:


Directorate: International Trade

The directorate works closely with the dtic. It is responsible for agricultural input for trade policy. It participates in trade negotiations and implementation of trade agreements, trade research and trade intelligence.


Directorate: Animal Health

This Directorate controls and certifies the health status of animals/animal products for import or export, including the provision of quarantine facilities. It also negotiates protocols on the import and export of animals/animal products.


Directorate: Plant Health

This Directorate ensures compliance with international plant health obligations and responsibilities, thereby creating an environment for safe imports and exports. Find the Import and export notes under the Plant health option at


Directorate: Marketing 


Directorate: Food Safety and Quality Assurance

Find the various Export certification procedures under the Food Safety and Quality Assurance option at


Directorate: Food Import and Export Standards


Directorate Inspection Services (IS)

All food business operators (FBOs) of legislated agricultural products of plant origin intended for export are required to register with DALRRD. The purpose of these registrations is to ensure that producers, packers, processors and freight forwarders are in line with the internationally set traceability requirements.

The Agricultural Trade Forum (ATF), established by the National Department of Agriculture, facilitates the entire agricultural industry with regard to international trade. It is housed under the Chief Directorate: Economic Development, Trade and Marketing.

Look for the government gazette notices at


Other government departments and state bodies

  • National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) The NAMC is involved in several ways here, from export promotion activities to supporting new agribusinesses in their endeavours to export their products. Read about the different divisions on the website.
  • Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) The PPECB provides a comprehensive service to exporters, which includes the inspection and approval of equipment such as containers, specialised reefer vessels and cold stores; monitoring loading processes and the en-route temperature management of produce. The PPECB was the implementing agent for the South African Pesticide Initiative Programme (SA PIP) and SA PIP 2. Smallholder farmers were trained on responsible pesticide use, food safety, agricultural practices and legislation. This was to introduce these producers to expectations of exporting to the EU. They constitute only a small percentage of those who export fruit and vegetables and so there is huge potential here.
  • Some provincial departments of agriculture work to identify export markets for agricultural produce in the province.
  • Reserve Bank Several relevant contact details are available on the website
  • South African Bureau of Standards (SABS)

The global Halal food and beverage market was valued at US$1.3 trillion in 2019, and forecast to reach US$1.38 trillion by 2024 (USDA, 2021). KwaZulu-Natal’s Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC Ravi Pillay valued it at US$6.3 trillion in 2022 (Mokwena, 2022). The Middle East and in particular the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which import 80% of their food requirements, represents the greatest potential market for South African Halal Certified products. Another market is European countries with large Muslim communities (e.g. UK, France and Germany). The WESGRO document “Halal FAQ’s for food and beverage exporters” included contact details of halal certifying bodies. The Western Cape Department of Agriculture has information on the halal value chain. See

Other role players

Associations and NGOs

  • Many Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) members are agricultural exporters. Find useful information on trade relations, trade agreements etc. at Several documents specifically look at agricultural exports.
  • Agbiz is a member of Business Unity South Africa (BUSA). See
  • Some Chambers are geared towards trade between two countries e.g. the French South African Chamber –; the Southern African German Chamber of Commerce –; Southern Africa-Switzerland –; South African-Netherlands – etc.
  • Find a list of fruit exporters at, website of the Fresh Produce Exporters’ Forum (FPEF).
  • The Farm Animal Unit of the National Council of SPCAs monitors the export of live animals from East London and Durban harbours. Visit
  • Responsible Packaging Management Association (RPMASA)




South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF)


The role of the freight forwarder, alternatively called the ‘shipping and forwarding’ or ‘clearing and forwarding’ agent, is to ensure that cargo is transported across international boundaries in the most efficient and economical way.



Export councils

In partnership with the dtic, Export Councils have been given a forum to address all obstacles and proposals that may affect their ability to export successfully. This takes the form of a National Export Advisory Council, chaired by the Minister. The export council’s database may be found on Included are organisations like the Fresh Produce Exporters’ ForumFarmed Abalone Export CouncilSouth African Flower Export CouncilWines of South Africa (WOSA)South African Ostrich Business Chamber and the SA Fruit and Vegetable Exporters’ Council.

Various industry associations and Joint Action Groups are also involved. Find all contact details on



Commercial banks assist with export credits, guarantees and letters of credit. The Credit Guarantee Insurance Corporation of South Africa administers an export credit insurance scheme on behalf of the dticAlso involved are regional and province-specific state role players e.g. WESGRO and Tshwane Economic Development Agency (TEDA). Find details of these on the “Providers of financial services” page.





African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund
c/o Department of International Relations and Co-operation



Credit insurance products


Credit Guarantee

Find the export credit insurance under the “Products and services” menu. The purpose of the scheme is to finance small to medium-sized businesses which lack the financial resources to execute export orders. The scheme enables the prospective exporter to obtain finance from a number of participating banks.


The Export Credit Insurance Corporation of South Africa Limited (ECIC) located within the Department of Trade and Industry

A project can qualify for 85% finance if a South African content of at least 50% of the total project value is achieved.


Industrial Development Corporation (IDC)


JSE Limited

If you are an exporter, foreign exchange is one of your top risks. A rand futures market exists allowing agribusinesses and farmers to hedge themselves against negative movements in the exchange rate, reducing risks and uncertainty.


Lombard Insurance Group

Credit insurance products


Prestige Credit Insurance Consultants

Credit insurance for protection on your dealings with exports debtors


Santam Marine



Import/export trade finance experts



Logistics and transport



Training and research

AgriAcademy SA The export readiness training course is an agriculture-focused distance learning course for the producer who plans to start exporting.

Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) facilitates training workshops for SMMEs interested in exporting. Visit

The chamber movement addresses all issues affecting the business community, including exporting. Find out how your nearest Chamber of Commerce can help you. We list some of these below:

Customs Services (Pty) Ltd

The Department of Trade, Industry & Competition (the dtic) runs the Global Export Passport Initiative, a training programme for companies and small exporters.

Freight Training (Pty) Ltd

Top of the Class (TOC) is a well-known training programme for the fruit industry, initiated by the Fresh Produce Exporters’ Forum (FPEF) more than ten years ago. Find details on

Global Maritime Legal Solutions (GMLS) Training and consulting in exporting

International Trade Institute of South Africa (ITRISA) Short courses and distance education: Certificate in International Trade, Advance Certificate in International Trade as well as National Diploma in Export/Import Management.

Maritime, Ports, Transport and Logistics Academy (MPTLA) Offers short courses and management development programmes

North-West University School of Economics Visit the website to see the offerings in International Trade.

The Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) is involved in programmes to build capacity. The Agri Export Technologist Programme is one of these. Find more at

Skills Development Specialists

The South African Board of Standards (SABS) offers training courses for GlobalG.A.P. Find contact details under “Other government departments and state bodies” heading.

South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA)

Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS) is a research organisation which has a focus on economic inclusion. Visit

TMS Training Services Training courses include Ships Chartering, Trade Finance and Forex for better Business.

Trade Law Centre for Southern Africa (TRALAC) “Building capacity to help Africa trade better”

TRADE Research Advisory (Trade and Development) Research niche areas – focusing research on export promotion and identifying South Africa’s export opportunities. See

The University of Cape Town runs an “Import and Export Management” short course. Take a look at for more information.

University of South Africa (UNISA) Centre for Business Management A 12-month, distance education certificate course in exporting is offered.



Consultants and other services

The various umbrella bodies like the South African Table Grapes Industry offer exporters information and services.



Provincial Government support

All provinces have trade and investment promotion agencies. Find their details on the “Providers of financial services” page.


International trade organisations



Visit websites of role players mentioned on this page.

  • The World Trade Organization (WTO) has launched the Global Trade Data Portal to tackle supply chain disruptions and food security risks exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine crisis. See
  • Find the US Department of Agriculture guides for exporting to several global destinations (including South Africa) at
  • Care to find out how countries fare in the competitive rankings? Two reports are the World Competitiveness Report (produced by the IMD Business School in Switzerland), and the Global Competitiveness Report (produced by the World Economic Forum in Switzerland). Visit and
  • Find the trade briefs, working papers etc at (Trade Law Centre for Southern Africa). Download the latest weekly customs, excise, tariff and trade remedy summary notification.
  • Read the information on on trade relations.
  • COMESAEAC and SADC implement a Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) reporting, monitoring and eliminating mechanism. See
  • – the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI) provides market information, export promotion, matching, advice on import enquiries, and environmental information for exporters from developing countries.
  • – read about “everything that is not happening at the WTO”
  • FreshPlaza: global fresh produce news,
  • Southern Africa’s Freight News
  • FTW Online “for import/export decision makers” –
  • – “Your online export helpdesk”
  • – Foreign Agricultural Service (the United States Department of Agriculture)
  • International Air Transport Association (IATA)
  • International Trade Centre (ITC), the “Development partner for export success” –
  • – International Trade Centre website for “trade statistics for international business development”
  • – Market Access Map, “making import tariffs and market access barriers transparent”
  • World Bank
  • World Customs Organisation –


Some articles

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