ZIMBABWEAN firms are spending millions of dollars to import chicken, pork and beef offal illegally, as Government grapples to contain a ballooning trade deficit. The Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services recently warned retailers and distributors it would confiscate contraband, prosecute, name and shame culprits.
Deputy director general in the veterinary services department Dr Hardwork Machakwa said retailers and distributors were peddling illegally imported chicken feet, necks, gizzards, pork bones, ox and beef livers.
This comes as Government has expressed concern at the rate at which imports have been increasing since 2009.
Between January and October 2012, imports totalled US$6,5 billion against US$5,2 billion for the same period in 2011, Finance Minister Tendai Biti said recently.
The result is a trade deficit, surplus of imports over exports, representing an outflow of domestic resources and a dwindling pool of resources to support productive sectors, hence, reliance on imports.
Yet the country also needs to conserve the hard currency in every little way possible to fund industry, key infrastructure, water and sanitation, education and health afflicted by acute shortage of funding.
Dr Machakwa said that authorities had discovered that retailers were selling imported offal, but the department of veterinary services was not issuing such licences.
"Usually, retailers would tell you that they did not know that it was illegal (to sell imported offal). It is key for retailers to know the difference between legally and illegally imported products," said Dr Machakwa.
Legally imported consignment should be supported by veterinary permit from veterinary services department, Control of goods Act from Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Import Declaration issued at the port of entry.
A release certificate issued by the Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services and documents from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority should also accompany such imported animal products.
Dr Machakwa also said measures to deter the continued illegal importation of chicken, pork and beef offal were being taken in the interest of the public.
"In 2013, imports will continue to grow while exports remain compressed, thus worsening the current account to minus 24,8 percent of GDP and mainly financed by short term capital inflows," Minister Biti said.
The country is losing millions of the scarce foreign currency due to proliferation of unessential imports including trinkets, yet industrial capacity is falling, having plunged from 57,2 percent in 2011 to 44,9 percent largely due to limited access to affordable funding.
"The Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services is not issuing permits (for chicken feet, necks, gizzards, pork bones, ox and beef livers). "The items are thus smuggled into the country," said Dr Machakwa.
The Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services is now working with the police force to rein in the culprits.
The fact that offal are imported outside the knowledge of relevant authorities means the public risk consuming products that could be harmful to health.