SA’s trade deficit narrower in fourth quarter

South Africa’s fourth quarter (Q4) current account deficit in 2013 amounted to 5,1% of GDP, down from the 6,4% shortfall recorded in the third quarter (Q3) of last year.

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According to the Quarterly Bulletin of the SA Reserve Bank, the real output of the primary sector, including agriculture and mining, increased by 12,8% in Q4, compared to 8,9% in Q3.

“The real value added by the agriculture sector increased at an annualised rate of 6,4% in the fourth quarter of 2013 following an increase of 3,6% in the third quarter. The strong performance in the fourth quarter stemmed primarily from an increase in field crop production, more in particular sugarcane, alongside higher animal and horticultural production,” said the report.

The SA economy as a whole recorded erratic quarter-to-quarter growth in 2013, with the overall pace of expansion in real output for the year as a whole at 1,9%.

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“Apart from longer-term impediments to growth, such as constrained electricity supply and logistical bottlenecks, production in the first quarter of 2013 was held back by industrial action, fire damage at a large steel mill and maintenance of production facilities, while widespread strike action again disrupted production in the third quarter,” said the Reserve Bank.

“From the low base established in the third quarter, the subsequent normalisation of production propelled growth to an annualisedrate of 3,8% in the fourth quarter of the year.”

The Reserve Bank predicted that SA’s erratic growth pattern could continue in the first quarter of 2014, with protracted industrial action again affecting production.