South Africa’s Trade Tango: Rising Import Costs Outpace Export Gains

  • South Africa’s Unit Value Index (UVI) for exported commodities showed a modest annual increase of 3.4% in March 2023, but a slight monthly decrease of 0.1% from February to March 2023.
  • The UVI for imported commodities, on the other hand, demonstrated a significant annual increase of 11.2%, with a monthly rise of 1.3% from February to March 2023.
  • These trends, particularly the rising cost of imports, carry significant implications for South Africa’s economy and require careful monitoring and strategic decision-making by policymakers.

In an increasingly globalized world, the import and export trends of a nation can offer substantial insights into its economic health. To this end, the South African national statistical service, STATSSA, has recently released key findings from its March 2023 Export and Import Unit Value Indices (UVI) report, P0142.7.

The report begins by shedding light on the trends related to the Unit Value Index (UVI) for exported commodities. The UVI is an essential metric that allows economists and policy makers to track the price trends of the goods a country exports.

According to the report, the UVI for exported commodities from South Africa shows an annual rate of change of 3.4% in March 2023. This figure points to a moderate increase in the prices of South Africa’s exported goods over the past year.

Such an increase could be attributed to a variety of factors, including inflation, changes in global commodity prices, or shifts in the mix of goods the country exports. However, the precise reasons behind this year-on-year change would require a more detailed breakdown of the data, which is beyond the scope of the current report.

In a somewhat contrasting trend, the report also notes a minor decrease in the UVI for exported commodities from February 2023 to March 2023, with a rate of change of -0.1%. This slight dip suggests that, while the long-term trend indicates rising export prices, there may have been short-term factors at play that led to a drop in export prices over the course of the month.

Switching focus to the import side of the equation, the UVI for imported commodities shows a more pronounced annual rate of change of 11.2% in March 2023. This marked increase suggests that the prices of goods South Africa is importing have risen significantly over the past year.

This could be the result of several factors including global inflation, increasing commodity prices, or changes in the country’s import mix. It could also reflect the impact of currency fluctuations, with a weaker Rand driving up the cost of imported goods. Again, a deeper dive into the specific commodities that are being imported would be needed to fully understand the dynamics at play.

From February 2023 to March 2023, the UVI for imported commodities also showed an increase, but at a more moderate rate of 1.3%. This suggests that, in contrast to the export side, South Africa’s import prices were on a relatively steady upward trajectory in the short-term as well as the long-term.


These trends in export and import unit values carry significant implications for South Africa’s economy. The rising cost of imported goods, if not matched by a comparable increase in the value of exports, could contribute to a widening trade deficit. Such a scenario would put pressure on the country’s balance of payments and potentially weaken the Rand.

On the other hand, if the higher import costs are due to the importation of capital goods – which are used to produce other goods and can boost the country’s productive capacity – this could be a positive sign for future economic growth.

Similarly, the moderate increase in export prices could be beneficial if it reflects rising global demand for South Africa’s goods. However, the slight decrease in export prices from February to March warrants monitoring, as it could signal emerging challenges in South Africa’s key export markets.


The March 2023 Export and Import Unit Value Indices report provides valuable insights into the state of South Africa’s international trade. While the figures reveal some concerning trends, they also underline the complexity of trade dynamics.

Understanding these dynamics is crucial for shaping sound economic policies. Assuch, it is essential for South African policymakers to closely monitor these trends and conduct further analysis to fully understand the underlying factors driving these changes.

It is equally important for South Africa to leverage its trade relationships to manage these challenges. This could involve diversifying its export markets to spread risk, promoting sectors where it has a competitive advantage, or negotiating favourable trade agreements.

In the face of global economic uncertainty, data such as the UVI can provide invaluable insights to guide decision-making and policy development. Through careful analysis and strategic action, South Africa can navigate these trade dynamics to support its economic growth and prosperity.

Table 1: South Africa’s Export Unit Value Index (UVI) Trends

PeriodUVI Rate of Change (%)
Annual (March 2022 – March 2023)+3.4
Monthly (February 2023 – March 2023)-0.1
Caption: Table 1 shows the annual and monthly rate of change in the Unit Value Index (UVI) for South Africa’s exported commodities in March 2023.

Table 2: South Africa’s Import Unit Value Index (UVI) Trends

PeriodUVI Rate of Change (%)
Annual (March 2022 – March 2023)+11.2
Monthly (February 2023 – March 2023)+1.3
Caption: Table 2 presents the annual and monthly rate of change in the Unit Value Index (UVI) for South Africa’s imported commodities in March 2023.

Visited 1 times, 1 visit(s) today

Stay ahead in the financial world – Sign Up to Rateweb’s essential newsletter for free. Get the latest insights on business trends, tech innovations, and market movements, directly to your inbox. Join our community of savvy readers and never miss an update that could impact your financial decisions.

Do you have a news tip for Rateweb reporters? Please email us at


Start trading with a free $30 bonus

Trade stocks, forex, commodities, metals and CFDs on stock indices with an internationally licensed and regulated broker. For all clients who open their first real account, XM offers a $30 trading bonus without any initial deposit needed. Learn more about how you can trade over 1000 instruments on the XM MT4 and MT5 platforms from your PC and Mac, or from a variety of mobile devices.


Personal Financial Tools

Below is a list of tools built to assist South Africans to make the best financial decisions:



South Africa’s primary source of financial tools and information

Contact Us


Rateweb strives to keep its information accurate and up to date. This information may be different than what you see when you visit a financial institution, service provider or specific product’s site. All financial products, shopping products and services are presented without warranty. When evaluating offers, please review the financial institution’s Terms and Conditions.

Rateweb is not a financial service provider and should in no way be seen as one. In compiling the articles for our website due caution was exercised in an attempt to gather information from reliable and accurate sources. The articles are of a general nature and do not purport to offer specialised and or personalised financial or investment advice. Neither the author, nor the publisher, will accept any responsibility for losses, omissions, errors, fortunes or misfortunes that may be suffered by any person that acts or refrains from acting as a result of these articles.