ZIMBABWE'S trade deficit in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) continues to widen amid revelations that it now stands at about US$500 million, an official has said.
Speaking in Bulawayo last week, Comesa senior trade officer Tasara Muzorori said Zimbabwe was running a huge trade deficit at the regional trading bloc.
"There is a negative trade balance between Zimbabwe and members within the Comesa region, and it's not a healthy situation. We are importing more than we are exporting, especially after 2008," said Muzorori.
He said in 2012, Zimbabwe imported over US$600 million goods while it exported just over US$100 million worth of goods.
Muzorori said the last time Zimbabwe performed well in the Comesa for the past 10 years was in 2003 when the country exported goods worth over US$100 million against less than US$1 million imports.
He added that Zimbabwe's top import from the Comesa in 2012 was maize.
"The top exports to the Comesa region is coke and semi-coke, followed by cigarettes and others," said Muzorori.
"The top exports destinations in the Comesa markets are just three countries: Zambia, Malawi and DRC. The country is mainly exporting coke or semi coke of coal, lignite or peat and tobacco to these countries," said the Comesa official.
ZimTrade regional manager Similo Nkala urged local companies to take export markets seriously and counter the effects of the trade deficit.
"Zimbabwe's exports have increased since 2009 from US$2,2 billion to US$3,5 billion in 2013. On the other hand imports have increased at a faster rate during the same period from US$3,5 billion to US$7,7 billion.
"The trade deficit has therefore widened significantly from US$1,3 billion to US$4,2 billion thus weakening the country's Balance Of Payment and the country's liquidity conditions," said Nkala.
The ZimTrade's Export Manufacturing Capacity Survey for 2013 realised early this month revealed that over 70 % of local companies that have been exporting in the past 10 years have ceased due to numerous challenges such as hassles in producing for exports and low production.