Picture: 123RF/Harald Tjøstheim
Picture: 123RF/Harald Tjøstheim

Wholesalers sold R168.5bn worth of goods in May, double the R84.7bn sold by retailers, Statistics SA says.

After stripping out inflation, wholesalers sold 0.5% more in May than in the same month in 2017. This halted two months of contraction.

Wholesalers suffered a 2.6% annual sales drop in April, which followed a 0.3% drop in March.

For calculating quarterly GDP, Statistics SA combines its various trade categories — including retail, wholesale, motor and accommodation — into one of the 11 components into which GDP is split.

During the first quarter, the trade component of GDP contracted by 0.4% from the fourth quarter of 2017. Mining and manufacturing both contracted 0.8%, and agriculture’s contribution to the country’s economy fell 0.7%.

Overall, GDP suffered a 2.2% decline in the first quarter.

Many of the monthly reports for the various pieces of second-quarter GDP released by Statistics SA so far have been negative, raising the alarm that the country has entered a recession as defined by two consecutive quarters of GDP decline.

A return to growth in May helped the three-month seasonably adjusted figure for wholesale trade come to 1%, indicating it may help lift the second quarter’s GDP.

In current prices, May’s wholesale sales were 5.9% higher than in May 2017.

The fuel industry, which accounts for more than one-fifth of SA’s wholesale industry, grew sales 18.3% to R36bn.

Food producers are the second-biggest category in Statistics SA’s wholesale categories, contributing 15% the total. Wholesale food sales declined 2% to R25.8bn.

But raw produce from farm sales grew 9.5% to R14bn.