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SUGAR EXPORTS DOWN 15%

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MBABANE – The country was derailed in its bid to become an export-led economy in the past month.

In September, exports decreased by 10.7 per cent month-on-month to settle at E2.851 billion. As a result, the country’s merchandise trade account recorded a reduced surplus amounting to E276.8 million. It was a decline from the E702.1 million surplus witnessed in August. This is as per the recent economic developments report from the Central Bank of Eswatini (CBE).

Declined

On a year-on-year basis, the data showed that export sales declined by 3.9 per cent. The slight appreciation of the Lilangeni from 14.79 in August 2021 to 14.58 in September 2021 partially influenced the decrease in exports. “Exports have been tracking the exchange rate between June and September 2021 such that a depreciation in the value of the Lilangeni against the US dollar is partially reflected in an increase in the value of exports during that period. A further analysis shows that goods sold to South Africa accounted for 66.4 per cent of the total export base,” highlighted the report.

Year-to-date exports from January to September this year increased by 7.8 per cent from the same period last year to E21.632 billion with imports showing a 21.0 per cent rise to E20.855 billion. A further analysis of exports for the month under review indicated that soft-drink concentrates sold abroad declined by 11.4 per cent month-on-month while decreasing by 7.4 year-on-year to E1.244 billion. Exports of sugar and its products recorded a wide 15.7 per cent month-on-month decrease to E650.1 million. Year-on-year figures falling by 9.4 per cent due to waning demand for the country’s sugar during this period.

Stabilise

Notably, the decline in Eswatini major export comes at a time when the South African sugar industry claimed to stabilise the sector in 2021 after a flood of sugar imports. The South African Sugar Association is on record saying it is particularly concerned about high volumes of sugar imports from here in Eswatini. Meanwhile, the export sales of wood and its articles, which contribute 7.0 per cent to the country’s total exports, fell to E198.8 million in September. This was a marginal 2.6 per cent month-on-month decline.

However, a 33.5 per cent year-on-year improvement was observed during the same period due to favourable prices in markets. Textile export sales declined by 14.3 per cent month-on-month and 3.0 per cent year-on-year to E345.3 million. At least 97.7 per cent of the country’s textile products are exported to the South African market.

Increase

The import bill, on the other hand, shows a 3.4 per cent month-on-month increase to E2.574 billion. This was slower than the 24.1 per cent month-on-month increase in the value of imports in August this year. Compared with last year’s figures, imports increased by a significant 21.4 per cent. This is explained as a return to normal import levels coming from a low base due to the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on global trade. Imports from South Africa accounted for 74.4 per cent of the total bill. The increase in the import numbers indicates that the economy has rebounded to its pre-pandemic levels in terms of economic activity.

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