Current trade conditions, as reflected by the Trade Activity Index (TAI), recovered to a seasonally adjusted 37 in March 2019 from 30 in January 2019, and 34 in February 2019, although still in negative territory, and much lower than the March 2018 level. According to the survey, the tough trade conditions will ease slightly in the next six months as reflected in the seasonally adjusted Trade Expectations Index (TEI) increasing by 4 index points to 43. The TEI was 10 index points below last year’s level.

Respondents indicated that the possibility of a stricter trade control and regulatory environment in the short to medium term will add pressure to the already tough trade environment. Respondents also listed challenges of competition, low economic growth; service delivery, labour and other protests; safety and security concerns; poor service delivery; less disposable income of consumers; and escalating energy and transport costs, as main obstacles to trade growth.

Some respondents have responded to these domestic challenges by refocusing their businesses to be more export market focused. Sales volumes improved marginally from 35 to 39, although the negative trend remains. Sales expectations for the next six months indicate a significant improvement to a positive 50. Supplier deliveries improved significantly in March 2019 from a low 28 to 41 level, despite only 36% of respondents being positive on upcoming supply deliveries. Pressure on prices continue as both the sales and input prices sub-indexes showed increases. Although sales price increases are anticipated to slow down slightly, 78% of respondents anticipate input costs to continue increasing. The rand exchange rate, fuel cost and electricity tariff increases, could materially impact price movements.

The employment sub index number has improved from 24 in January to 35 in February, and to 39 in March 2019, although only 33% of the respondents in March expected to employ more staff.

Released by the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry at their offices in Illovo, Johannesburg. For more information and infographic, see the SACCI website – or contact:
Alan Mukoki
SACCI CEO Cell: 082 551 1159
Richard Downing
Economist for SACCI Cell: 082 822 5566