SOUTH Africa recorded an improved trade deficit in May for its trade with non-Southern African Customs Union trading partners in May.

An R8,9bn deficit was recorded in May, after a R9,9bn deficit in April, customs and excise figures released on Friday show.

The decline was attributed to increased exports of precious and semiprecious stones, mineral products, and machinery and electrical appliances.

Imports of mineral products and machinery and electrical appliances also increased.

A survey of economists had forecast a R5,7bn deficit.

There was a R10,6bn (20,4%) increase in exports to R62,8bn and an increase in imports of R9,7bn (15,6%) to R71,7bn.

The cumulative deficit for the year to date is R45,8bn compared with a cumulative deficit of R7,5bn in 2011.

A breakdown of the figures showed that the exports of precious and semiprecious stones and metals increased by R3,8bn or 37%; mineral products increased by R2,6bn or 17%; machinery and electrical appliances increased by R976m or 22%; vegetable products increased by R865m or 15%; vehicles, aircraft and vessels rose by R670m or 15%.

Prepared foodstuffs, beverages and tobacco exports lifted by R651m or 43%; while the exports of base metals and articles thereof increased by R630m or 9%.

In imports, mineral products increased by R5,9bn or 45%; machinery and electrical appliances increased by R1,8bn or 7%; original equipment components increased by R676m or 16%; vehicles, aircraft and vessels increased by R606m or 9%; while products of the chemicals or allied industries rose R427m or 8%.