Cape coal exports surge nearly 400%

Growing from R1.6b to R8.1b, coal accounted for 4.36% of the WC's total exports for 2022, positioning it between wine-related exports at 5.67% and iron or non-alloy steel at 2.11%





Jul 8, 2024

Cape coal exports surge nearly 400%

Coal exports from the Western Cape have surged dramatically, according to the latest figures from Wesgro’s Western Cape Trade Flows & Developments 2022 report. The value of “coal; briquettes, ovoids and similar solid fuels manufactured from coal” soared from R1.63 billion in 2021 to R8.12 billion in 2022.

This impressive growth saw coal account for 4.36% of the Western Cape’s total exports for 2022, positioning it between wine-related exports at 5.67% and iron or non-alloy steel at 2.11%.

The surge in coal exports contributed approximately 30% to the year-on-year export value growth of 12.8% for that period. Wesgro’s 2024/25 Annual Performance Plan highlighted that this increase was driven by record global coal consumption and soaring coal prices.

Global factors played a significant role in boosting demand for South African coal. “South Africa’s share of global coal supply rose substantially in 2022, mainly due to the European ban on Russian coal amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine,” Wesgro noted.

As a result, the Netherlands emerged as the Western Cape’s second-largest coal export market in 2022, following Mauritius. Despite congestion issues at the Port of Cape Town, logistical challenges at other South African ports have led to increased coal and chromium exports from the Western Cape.

The Economic Performance Indicators for Cape Town (EPIC) 2023 Fourth Quarter report, a collaboration between the City of Cape Town’s Economic Development, Investment, Policy, and Strategy departments, stated, “The logistical rerouting of chromium, coal, and other mineral substance exports due to infrastructure failures continues to drive the increase of non-local commodity exports from the Port of Cape Town.”

The rise in exports from Cape Town coincides with a decline in coal exports from the Port of Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal, which houses Africa’s largest coal terminal. Coal exports from Richards Bay Coal Terminal dropped to 47.92 million tons in 2023 from 50.4 million tons in 2022, largely due to ongoing issues with the Transnet Freight Rail export coal line.

While the Port of Cape Town saw a 24.8% drop in coal export value in the last quarter, coal remains a leading export from the city. According to the EPIC report, “Refined petroleum remained the highest-value export from Cape Town in the fourth quarter of 2023, worth R4.9 billion, followed by antiques (R1.9 billion) and coal (R1.47 billion).”


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