Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

SA’s bulk export volumes fell 6.5% year on year in January to 13.5-million tonnes. There was also a fall of 2.8% for all of 2016 to 163.3-million tonnes, data from the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) showed on Monday.

Policy uncertainty and logistics constraints meant that SA lost out on the 2003 to 2008 commodity price boom, with annual bulk exports increasing by a mere 2.8-million tonnes between those two years.

Since then there has been a marked turnaround due to better policy co-ordination between mining companies and state-owned Transnet, so that volumes improved by 45% or 52.3-million tonnes between 2008 and 2015. However, low commodity prices in 2016 constrained supply.

A jump in commodity prices since Donald Trump’s election in November may result in a boost in bulk exports in 2017, as bulk exports grew 9.5% in November after a 0.7% drop in October. In December 2016, bulk export volumes increased 7.4%.

Bulk exports out of Richards Bay, which are mostly coal, fell 10.8% in January to 7-million tonnes after easing 2.8% in 2016 to 90.4-million tonnes. As Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) no longer releases operational statistics, economists are finding it more difficult to track economic performance in SA in a timeous manner.

Bulk exports out of Saldanha, which are mostly iron ore, fell 7.6% in January to 5.3-million tonnes after a 5.6% drop in 2016 to 59.8-million tonnes.

The slump in the maize harvest in 2016 did not seem to affect bulk exports out of the other ports such as Durban, with a 12.6% rise in 2016 to 14.1-million tonnes after falling 19.3% in 2015 to 11.6-million tonnes. In January 2017, there was a 46.9% surge to 1.1-million tonnes.

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