Primary Eurostat data of EU imports of agricultural products from selected southern hemisphere countries - namely, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, Australia and New Zealand - was used to compare the exports from those countries to the EU for the period 1988 to 2000. The study starts with a general overview of the total and agricultural export performance of these selected countries in a global context and their specialization indexes for food. This is followed by a comparison of the total value, total mass and value per tonne of agricultural exports to the EU and of their exploitation of seasonal differences with the northern hemisphere in terms of relative emphasis on particular product groups and value/mass ratios of their major products. Comparison is made of the impact of their location relative to EU ports in terms of transport cost and duration of trips and the efficiency of their own ports. The conclusions reached is that in order to remain competitive, South Africa will have to add value to carefully selected non-seasonal products. Seasonal production will have to expand with a sharper focus on market windows becoming narrower due to research and development conducted by both northern and southern hemisphere competitors. The overview motivates an even more aggressive research and development (R&D) programme by South African agriculture and food industries in order to remain competitive on export markets, especially given the rapidly changing environment. For example, the introduction of much faster ships which will decrease South Africa's present advantage of having the shortest distance to the EU among the other southern hemisphere competitors.


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