Trade balance swings into sharp deficit

South Africa’s imports jumped 11,6 percent in March while exports fell by 3 percent.

FILE: Containers staked up in the Port of Shanghai, China, 29 November 2013. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa recorded a much wider than expected trade deficit of R11,39 billion in March after a R1,72 billion surplus in February, which was later revised down to R647 million.

The data was released by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) earlier today.

Exports in March fell three percent to R80,26 billion while imports jumped a massive 11,6 percent to R91,65 billion. The latest data brings the cumulative deficit for 2014 to R27,69 billion compared to R21,61 billion over the same period in 2013.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a trade shortfall of R1,5 billion for March but the data is volatile and often difficult to predict.

Explaining his view on the deficit, Managing Director and Economist of ETM Analytics George Glynos also noted the volatility of this data.

"There's no doubt there has been deterioration. If I had to pinpoint one thing, it's the fact that we've had a significant strike in the platinum mining sector."

He says the mining sector is a major contributor to South Africa's exports and says the country will have to get used to the idea of "ugly" deficits as long as labour unrest continues in the country.

Listen to Glynos's full interview on The Money Show.