ZIMBABWE imported $2,51 billion worth of goods between January and June this year, representing a 13,3 percent decline on 2015. The decline in the value of imports comes after Government recently introduced legislation to restrict the importation of certain products. Latest trade statistics show that Zimbabwe imported a total of $2,51 billion worth of goods in the first half of the year compared to $2,95 billion imported last year.The value of exports over the same period also declined in the first half of this year to $1,126 billion from the $1,233 billion the prior year.
Trade balance, the statistics show, stood at a negative $1,403 billion in the half year against a negative $1,684 billion in the same period last year.
The country imported goods worth about $6 billion last year while it exported only $3,5 million, leaving it with an unsustainable negative trade balance.
Zimbabwe relies on imported products for the bulk of goods consumed in the country at a time local industrial capacity is at low ebb.
The domestic industry is finding it difficult to raise production or where production is happening, to compete with cheaper foreign products.
This is because the equipment and machinery used by local firms and manufacturing industry is either too old or outdated, making them highly inefficient, resulting in high cost of production or product prices.
According to the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries 2015 manufacturing survey report, average capacity utilisation is at a lowly 34 percent.
The production challenges being faced by industry, compounded by high cost of and unreliable supply of electricity, high cost of labour, utilities and a litany of statutory payments has resulted in an influx of imports.
It is against this background that Government came up with Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, only last month, to curb the imports.
This is meant to temporarily give the domestic manufacturers time and space to invest in new technology and machinery to improve efficiencies in order to be able to compete with the low priced imports.
Goods that have been removed from the Open General Import Licence and now require a permit to be brought into the country are coffee creamers, camphor creams, white petroleum jellies and body creams.
The list also includes furniture, baked beans, potato crisps, cereals, bottled water, mayonnaise, salad cream, peanut butter, jams, maheu, canned fruits and vegetables, pizza base, yoghurts, flavoured milks, dairy juice blends, ice-creams, cultured milk and cheese.
Also making the list are goods categorised as builders’ ware like wheelbarrows (flat pan and concrete pan wheelbarrows), structures and parts of structures of iron or steel (bridges and bridges sections, lock gates, towers, lattice masts, roofs, roofing frameworks, doors, windows and their frames and threshold for doors, shutters, balustrade, pillars and columns) and plates, rods, angles, shapes sections and tubes prepared for use in structures of iron and steel ware, were also on the list of the restricted products.