South Africa's wool exports increased by 11% in 2023

South Africa's wool exports  increased by 11% in 2023

We are finally seeing some signs of recovery after South Africa's wool exports sharply declined in 2022.  The temporary closure of the Chinese market in the second to third quarters of 2022 weighed on the industry's exports and farmers' finances.

China is a major buyer of South African wool and of wool globally.

Over the past ten years, China accounted, on average,  for roughly 69% of South Africa's annual wool exports in value terms. Thus, a temporary closure in 2022 was a major issue. China's reason for this move was to protect their market from the Foot-and-Mouth Diseases spreading in the South African cattle industry.

But this was an oversight on the Chinese part. There is a unique protocol to handle the wool shipments and avoid contamination during a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in South Africa.

South Africa and China agreed on this protocol following the 2019 outbreak, which weighed on exports.

China temporarily suspended South Africa's wool exports in the second quarter of 2022 and only opened the market in the last week of August 2022.

This resulted in a 21% year-on-year decline in the export value of wool in 2022, to US$255 million, according to data from Trade Map. Still, this is notable, accounting for 2% of South Africa's record agricultural export value of US$12,8 billion in 2022.

Positively, 2023 was a recovery year. The wool exports lifted by 11% year-on-year to US$284 million. There was an improvement in both value and volumes.

The Chinese market remained open, and the share of wool exported to China improved significantly. Wool accounted for 2% of South Africa's new record agricultural exports of US$13,2 billion in 2023.

-        Wandile Sihlobo, email: