‘Products Mapping’ of South Africa’s Agri-food trade with the EU28 and Africa

DOI 10.7160/aol.2020.120410
No 4/2020, December
pp. 133-149

Zdráhal, I., Verter, N. and Lategan, F. (2020) ‘Products Mapping’ of South Africa’s Agri-food trade with the EU28 and Africa, AGRIS on-line Papers in Economics and Informatics, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp. 133-149. ISSN 1804-1930. DOI 10.7160/aol.2020.120410.


This paper uses ‘products mapping’ tool based on the trade balance index (TBI) and Lafay index to investigate trade performance and competitiveness in food items between South Africa (SA) and the EU28 and Africa. The data for this analysis is obtained from the UNCTAD database. SA’s agri-food trade balance climbed from $1.5 billion in 2005 to $3.1 billion in 2017. The results support the conclusion that in bilateral trade, certain products have comparative advantages in relation to African markets despite comparative disadvantages in relation to the EU28 market. Also, there is no or decreasing diversification towards more and new leading products despite the increased intra-regional openness. Leading products (especially fruit and nuts) are the dominant export generating segments in the product’s structure of SA’s agri-food trade. Also, leading products mostly contribute to the positive balance of SA’s agri-food trade. The findings of this study may contribute to business strategies, trade policies, and regional and inter-regional integration.


Agri-food, comparative advantage, competitiveness, TBI, Lafay index.


  1. Adriaen, D., Kleynhans T. E. and Tollens, E. (2004) “A Comparison Between South African Agricultural Exports to the European Union and those of other selected southern hemisphere countries”, Agrekon, Vol. 43, No. 2, pp. 184-201. ISSN 2078-0400. DOI 10.1080/03031853.2004.9523644.
  2. Aiginger, K. (2000) “Specialization of European manufacturing”, Austrian Economic Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 81-92. ISSN 1098-3708.
  3. Arndt C. and Roberts, S. J. (2018) “Key issues in regional growth and integration in Southern Africa”, Development Southern Africa, Vol. 35, No. 3, pp. 297-314, ISSN 1470-3637. DOI 10.1080/0376835X.2018.1469970.
  4. Benesova, I., Maitah, M., Smutka, L., Tomsik, K. and Ishchukova, N. (2017) “Perspectives of the Russian agricultural exports in terms of comparative advantage”, Agric. Econ. – Czech, Vol. 63, No. 7, pp. 318-330. ISSN 1805-9295. DOI 10.17221/344/2015-AGRICECON.
  5. Benešová, I., Smutka, L. and Laputková, A. (2018) "Specifics of the Mutual Trade of the Post-Soviet Countries", Entrepreneurial Business and Economics Review, Vol. 7, No. 1. E-ISSN 2353-8821, ISSN 2353-883X. DOI 10.15678/EBER.2019.070102.
  6. Berends, G. (2016) “What does the EU-SADC EPA really say? An analysis of the economic partnership agreement between the European Union and Southern Africa”, South African Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 23, No. 4, pp. 457-474. ISSN 1022-0461. DOI 10.1080/10220461.2016.1275763.
  7. Bilan Y., Mishchuk, H., Roshchyk, I. and Kmecova I. (2020) "Analysis of Intellectual Potential and its Impact on the Social and Economic Development of European Countries", Journal of Competitiveness, Vol.1, pp. 22-38. E-ISSN 1804-1728. ISSN 1804-171X. DOI 10.7441/joc.2020.01.02.
  8. Blažková, I. and Chmelíková, G. (2016) “The Influence of Market Concentration on the Development of Newly Born Business in the Czech Republic”, Acta Universitatis Agriculturae et Silviculturae Mendelianae Brunensis, Vol. 64, No. 3, pp. 929-938. ISSN 1211-8516. DOI 10.11118/actaun201664030929.
  9. Blížkovský, P., Grega, L. and Verter, N. (2018) “Towards a common agricultural policy in Africa?”, Agric. Econ. – Czech, Vol. 64, No. 7, pp. 301-315. ISSN 0139-570X. DOI 10.17221/310/2016-AGRICECON.
  10. Bojnec, Š. and Fertő, I. (2015) “Agri-food export competitiveness in European Union countries”, JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, Vol. 53, No. 3, pp. 476-492. E-ISSN 1468-5965. DOI 10.1111/jcms.12215.
  11. Brodzicki, T. and Kwiatkowski, J. (2018) "An Empirical Investigation into the Role of Technology Gap in the Trade Relations of the EU Member States", Entrepreneurial Business and Economics Review, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 111-135. E-ISSN 2353-8821, ISSN 2353-883X. DOI 10.15678/EBER.2018.060206.
  12. Cieślik, A., Qu, Y. and Qu, T. (2018) "Innovations and Export Performance: Firm Level Evidence from China", Entrepreneurial Business and Economics Review, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp. 27-47. E-ISSN 2353-8821, ISSN 2353-883X. DOI 10.15678/EBER.2018.060402.
  13. Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of South Africa (DAFF) (2011) “Competitiveness of selected South African agricultural product exports in the EU-27”, Economic Services and Directorate, International Trade, South Africa. [Online]. Available: https://1url.cz/6MgC8 [Accessed: 14 May 2019].
  14. De Pablo Valenciano, J., Uriarte, M. M. C. and Battistuzzi, M. A. G. (2017) “South Africa’s competitiveness against its main competitors in the market of pears imported by the EU28”, Agrekon, Vol. 56, No. 2, pp. 191-204. ISSN 2078-0400. DOI 10.1080/03031853.2017.1297723.
  15. DTI – Department of Trade and Industry Republic of South Africa (2020) "African Regional Integration”. [Online]. Available: https://bit.ly/33fYsYX [Accessed: 15 Feb 2020].
  16. Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) (2019) "Global food security index 2019: Exploring challenges & developing solutions”, EIU. [Online]. Available at: https://bit.ly/2THEbs8 [Accessed: 11 March 2020].
  17. Esquivias, M. A. (2017) “The Change of Comparative Advantage of Agricultural Activities in East Java Within the Context of Asean Economic Integration", AGRIS on-line Papers in Economics and Informatics, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 33-47. ISSN 1804-1930. DOI 10.7160/aol.2017.090103.
  18. European Commission (2016) "Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and the SADC EPA States, of the other part”, Official Journal of the European Union, L 250/2108.
  19. European Commission (2019) "Agri-food trade factsheet: European Union and South Africa”. [Online]. Available: https://bit.ly/2McDx4j [Accessed: 27 May 2019].
  20. Fertő, I. (2008) “The evolution of agri-food trade patterns in Central European countries”, Post-Communist Economies, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 1-10. ISSN 1463-1377. DOI 10.1080/14631370701865680.
  21. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (2011) "Why has Africa become a net food importer? Explaining Africa agricultural and food trade deficits”. [Online]. Available: https://bit.ly/2IzRtAy [Accessed: 20 Jan 2019].
  22. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (2019) "FAOSTAT database”, [Online]. Available: http://bit.ly/NmQzZf [Accessed: 17 June 2019].
  23. Food Security Information Network (FSIN) (2019) “Global report on food crises 2019”, FSIN. [Online]. Available: http://fsinplatform.org/ [Accessed: 27 July 2019].
  24. Fujita, M., Krugman, P. and Venables, A. (1999) “The Spatial Economy: Cities, Regions, and International Trade”, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 382 p. ISBN 9780262561471. DOI 10.7551/mitpress/6389.001.0001.
  25. Gebrehiwet, Y., Ngqangweni, S. and Kirsten, J. F. (2007) “Quantifying the trade effect of sanitary and phytosanitary regulations of OECD countries on South African food exports”, Agrekon, Vol. 46, No. 1, pp. 1-17. ISSN 2078-0400. DOI 10.1080/03031853.2007.9523759.
  26. Ishchukova, N. and Smutka, L. (2014) “Revealed" comparative advantage: products mapping of the Russian agricultural exports in relation to individual regions“, Acta Scientiarum Polonorum. Oeconomia, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 45-61. ISSN 1644-0757.
  27. Kostiukevych, R., Mishchuk, H., Zhidebekkyzy, A., Nakonieczny, J. and Akimov, O. (2020) "The impact of European integration processes on the investment potential and institutional maturity of rural communities", Economics and Sociology, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 46-63. E-ISSN 2306-3459, ISSN 2071-789X. DOI 10.14254/2071-789X.2020/13-3/3.
  28. Krugman, P. (1987) “The narrow mowing band, the Dutch disease, and the competitive consequences of Mrs. Thatcher: notes on trade in the presence of dynamic scale economies”, Journal of Development Economics, Vol. 27, No. 1, pp. 41-54. ISSN 0304-3878. DOI 10.1016/0304-3878(87)90005-8.
  29. Krugman, P. (1991) “Geography and Trade”, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, p. 156. ISBN 9780262610865.
  30. Lafay, G. (1992) “The measurement of revealed comparative advantages”, In: DAGENAIS, M. G. & MUET, P.-A. (eds.), "International Trade Modelling". London: Chapman & Hall. ISBN 978-0412450006.
  31. Larsén, M. F. (2007) “Trade Negotiations between the EU and South Africa: A Three‐Level Game”, JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, Vol. 45, No. 4, pp. 857-881. ISSN 1468-5965. DOI 10.1111/j.1468-5965.2007.00751.x.
  32. Lucas, R. (1988) “On the mechanics of economic development”, Journal of Monetary Economics, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 3-22. ISSN 0304-3932. DOI 10.1016/0304-3932(88)90168-7.
  33. Maris, M. (2019) "Structural and productivity shift of industries in Slovakia and Czech Republic: A comparative study", Journal of International Studies, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 313-323. E-ISSN 2306-3483, ISSN 2071-8330. DOI 10.14254/2071-8330.2019/12-1/21.
  34. Nazarczuk, J., Umiński, S. and Gawlikowska-Hueckel, K. (2018) "The Role of Specialisation in the Export Success of Polish Counties in 2004-2015", Entrepreneurial Business and Economics Review, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 91-109. E-ISSN 2353-8821, ISSN 2353-883X. DOI 10.15678/EBER.2018.060205.
  35. Ortikov, A., Smutka, L. and Benešová, I. (2019) “Competitiveness of Uzbek agrarian foreign trade – different regional trade blocs and the most significant trade partners”, Journal of International Studies, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp. 177-194. ISSN 2306-3483. DOI 10.14254/2071-8330.2019/12-4/12.
  36. Porter, M. E. (1990) “Competitive advantage of nations”, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 68, No. 2, pp. 73-93. ISSN 0017-8012.
  37. Reis, J. G. and Farole, T. (2012) “Trade Competitiveness Diagnostic Toolkit”, Washington, DC, World Bank Group. DOI 10.1596/978-0-8213-8937-9.
  38. Sandrey, R., Punt, C., Jensen, H. G. and Vink, N. (2011) "Agricultural Trade and Employment in South Africa“, OECD Trade Policy Papers, No. 130, OECD Publishing, Paris. [Online]. Available: https://bit.ly/2TExdEa [Accessed: 01 Dec 2019]. E-ISSN 18166873. DOI 10.1787/5kg3nh58nvq1-en.
  39. Sanidas, E. and Shin, Y. (2010) “Comparison of Revealed Comparative Advantage Indices with Application to Trade Tendencies of East Asian Countries”, Seoul National University. [Online]. Available: https://bit.ly/39LOzVe [Accessed: 20 April 2019].
  40. Smutka, L., Rovný, P., Pulkrábek, J. and Horská, E. (2016) “Foreign Trade in Sugar (HS 1701) and Sugar Containing Products (HS17) – Comparison of the Czech and Slovak Republic During the Last Two Decades”, Listy Cukrovarnicke a Reparske, Vol. 132, No. 7-8, pp. 234-240. ISSN 1805-9708.
  41. Smutka, L., Maitah, M. and Svatoš, M. (2018) “Changes in the Czech agrarian foreign trade competitiveness – different groups of partners’ specifics”, Agric. Econ. – Czech, Vol. 64, No. 9, pp. 399-411. ISSN 1805-9295. DOI 10.17221/399/2016-AGRICECON.
  42. Smutka, L., Maitah, M. and Svatoš, M. (2019) “The Czech Agrarian Trade Comparative Advantages Distribution Based on Value and Volume Approach”, Acta Universitatis Agriculturae et Silviculturae Mendelianae Brunensis, Vol. 67, No. 6, pp. 1613-1625. ISSN 2464-8310. DOI 10.11118/actaun201967061613.
  43. UNCTAD (2019) “World statistical database” [Online]. Available: https://bit.ly/21GbfKX. [Accessed: 25 Feb 2019].
  44. Vink, N. and van Rooyen, J. (2009) "Perspectives on the Performance of Agriculture in South Africa since 1994 and implications for its Role in Achieving Sustainable Food Security“, Working Papers 108005, University of Pretoria, Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development. [Online]. Available: https://bit.ly/2IFAo8g [Accessed: 10 Dec 2019]. DOI 10.22004/ag.econ.108005.
  45. Verter, N., Zdráhal, I., Bečvářová, V. and Grega, L. (2020) “‘Products mapping’ and trade in agri-food products between Nigeria and the EU28”, Agric. Econ. – Czech, Vol. 66, No. 1, pp. 34-45. ISSN 0139-570X. DOI 10.17221/145/2019-AGRICECON.
  46. Widodo, T. (2008) “Product mapping and dynamic shift in the patterns of comparative advantage: Could India Catch Up China?”, Journal of Chinese Economic and Foreign Trade Studies, Vol. 1, No. 3, pp. 200-213. ISSN 1754-4408. DOI 10.1108/17544400810912365.
  47. Widodo, T. (2009) “Comparative Advantage: Theory, Empirical Measures and Case Studies”, Review of Economic and Business Studies, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 57-81. ISSN 1843-763X.
  48. World Bank (2019) “World development indicators”, [Online]. Available at: http://bit.ly/1Cd8EkQ. [Accessed: 28 June 2019].
  49. Zaghini, A. (2003) “Trade advantages and specialization dynamics in acceding countries”, Working paper No. 249, Frankfurt am Main, Germany: European Central Bank, pp. 4-15.
  50. Zdráhal, I., Verter, N., Daňková, B. and Kuchtík, J. (2019) “‘Products mapping’ and agri-food trade between Nigeria and ECOWAS member countries”, Acta Universitatis Agriculturae et Silviculturae Mendelianae Brunensis, Vol. 67, No. 5, pp. 1379-1392. ISSN 1211-8516. DOI 10.11118/actaun201967051379.
  51. Yang, J., Černevičiūtė, J., Strazdas, R. and Tvaronavičienė, M. (2019) "Stimulation of cultural and creative industries clusters development: А case study from China", Terra Economicus, Vol. 17, No. 3, pp. 169-184. ISSN 24104531.

Full paper

  Full paper (.pdf, 726.41 KB).