Brexit decision could affect SA’s trade relationship with the UK

On Thursday the British public will decide in a referendum whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union (EU).

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This decision, which is popularly known as the ‘Brexit vote’, will have implications for South Africa’s agricultural exports to that country.

“If Brexit happens, South Africa will no longer have a formal trade relationship with the UK,” said Agbiz economist, Wandile Sihlobo.

Sihlobo said market access benefits that existed through the Trade and Development Cooperation Agreement and the EU-South African Development Community (SADC) Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), would also no longer apply.

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On 10 June this year, the EU signed an EPA with the SADC EPA group, consisting of Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland. The EU is the SADC EPA group’s largest trading partner.

If the exit vote goes ahead, UK exports to South Africa would also be subject to higher tariffs.

The country’s annual exports to South Africa are valued at R4 billion, with the main commodities being whisky (R2,2 billion) and poultry (R209 million).

Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Citrus Growers’ Association, said in the association’s newsletter that a vote to leave the EU could be positive from a citrus trade perspective.

“A Brexit would result in [the] revision of UK plant health regulations, which would be positive for southern hemisphere citrus [producers],” Chadwick said.

According to Agbiz trade research, a major portion of South Africa’s fresh fruit exports are consumed by UK residents.
Approximately 13% of pears, 15% of oranges, 18% of avocados, 25% of lemons, 26% of fresh grapes, 30% of plums, 55% of mandarins, 68% of apples, and 70% of peaches exported to the EU originate in South Africa.