Business Reporter
Zimbabwe’s import bill has over the past six months increased by a phenomenal 129 percent to US$3,9 billion by August this year from US$1,7 billion on the back of an influx of imported foodstuffs, a Cabinet minister has said.
This reflects an increase of US$2, 2 billion within the six months period, representing 129 percent growth of imports as local industry remains incapacitated to produce or meet demand.

Speaking at the inaugural Buy Zimbabwe Retail Chain Suppliers Conference in Harare yesterday, Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha said most of the foodstuffs could be produced locally.

“Such negatively skewed trends in trade are detrimental to our efforts to rejuvenate the local industry, create employment and stem the liquidity crunch that we are experiencing.

“A number of local importers now find it easy to secure products from anywhere around the world without the hassle of searching for convertible currency.

“Our retail space has thus become a true representative of the global competitive arena,” he said.
The minister added that within the same business environment, the local suppliers who have sacrificed much over the years have to compete despite the challenge of old and inefficient equipment.

He added that the Industrial Development Policy and the National Trade Policy were premised on value addition of local resources and increase in exports in the regional and international markets.

“It is imperative that our manufacturers strive to become globally competitive in both price and quality by adopting strategies that would enhance their product quality and reduce costs to manageable levels,” Minister Bimha said.

He also noted the willingness of the retail sector operators to support the growth of the domestic economy by according first preference to locally manufactured products.  He, however said that the preference for local goods has not been extended to procurement practices on the ground due to a number of factors relating to both the retailers and the suppliers.

The minister said that this was driven by erratic supply of local products, pricing disparities between locally manufactured goods and imported ones, late payments from retailers in a context where credit lines are limited and the desire for the two parties to find each other.
Minister Bimha further noted that the suppliers believe that much more effort needs to be done by retailers to work with them.

OK Zimbabwe chief operations officer Mr Albert Katsande said that shops have 65 percent imported products while 35 percent is local.
“The reason why we import is to fill in the gap of local suppliers.  We support our local suppliers 100 percent but retailers did not choose to import as lack of local product forces us to import,” he said.

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