Political protests in the city of Durban, South Africa, have widened into the burning of warehouses, Reuters reported, and have led to factory closures, according to The Economist. Container line A.P. Møller - Mærsk A/S has also shut some of its facilities in the city. The disruptions may have an onward impact on supply chains connected to Durban, and potentially South Africa more broadly.
Panjiva's data shows that South Africa's exports are dominated by commodities, with precious metals and mineral ores accounting for 22.6% and 15.0%, respectively, in 2020. The country also has a significant automotive sector that represents 9.8% of exports. Automotive exports in 2020 were mainly headed to Europe, though shipments to the U.S. accounted for 7.3% of automotive shipments from South Africa.
While mineral commodities can be easily stored or sourced from elsewhere in the world, automotive supply chains tend to run on minimal inventories and parts cannot often be easily replaced. Exports of agricultural products — particularly fruits and, to a lesser extent, wine — may also be easily disrupted.
Durban is the largest port for seaborne shipments to the U.S. from South Africa and represented 46.5% of shipments in the 12 months to June 30 after rising 53.9% year over year. The second-largest is Cape Town, which accounted for 30.4% of shipments after growth of 32.3% over the same period.
It is very early to determine whether specific companies' supply chains will be directly affected by the disruptions. Panjiva's data indicates that among the automotive sector suppliers is MAHLE GmbH, with average monthly shipments of 49 twenty-foot equivalent units in the six months to June 30. Mahle's shipments have been expanding, with growth of 159% year over year in the second quarter of 2021 and 14.6% versus the second quarter of 2019.
There may be deeper ramifications if materials suppliers that ship to U.S. manufacturers are impacted. Chemicals supplier Sasol Ltd. had already been experiencing a downturn in shipments with a 23.7% year-over-year drop in the second quarter of 2021. Imports associated with fibers producer Lenzing AG, meanwhile, dropped 31.1%.
Christopher Rogers is a senior researcher at Panjiva, which is a business line of S&P Global Market Intelligence, a division of S&P Global Inc. This content does not constitute investment advice, and the views and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of S&P Global Market Intelligence. Links are current at the time of publication. S&P Global Market Intelligence is not responsible if those links are unavailable later.